This article examines the ways in which missing persons have been dealt with, mainly in
the former Yugoslavia, to show how the huge advances made in the search for, recovery and
identification of those who disappeared is positively impacting on the ability of families
to find their loved ones. The article surveys the advances made in dealing with the
missing on a range of fronts, including the technical and forensic capacities. It examines
some of the other developments that have occurred around the world with regard to the
search for, recovery and identification of people and makes recommendations on how to make
improvements to ensure that the rights of families around the world, as well as a range of
other human rights, including truth and justice, are enhanced.
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Martin Evison, Edna Sadayo Miazato Iwamura, Carlos Eduardo Palhares Machado, Ricardo Henrique Alves da Silva, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Diva Santana and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício
Exhumation may be defined as the legally sanctioned excavation and recovery of the
remains of lawfully buried or – occasionally – cremated individuals, as distinct from
forensic excavations of clandestinely buried remains conducted as part of a criminal
investigation and from unlawful disinterment of human remains, commonly referred to as
bodysnatching. The aim of this article is to review the role of exhumation – so defined –
in the activities of CEMEL, the Medico-Legal Centre of the Ribeirão Preto Medical
School-University of São Paulo, in international, regional and local collaborations.
Exhumations form part of routine forensic anthropology casework; scientific research in
physical and forensic anthropology; and forensic casework conducted in collaboration with
the Brazilian Federal Police; and are carried out as part of humanitarian investigations
into deaths associated with the civil–military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. This article
aims to offer a non-technical summary – with reference to international comparative
information – of the role of exhumation in investigative and scientific work and to
discuss developments in their historical and political context.
This article describes the powerplay around the recent discovery (summer 2015) of
eighteenth-century Jewish graves in the French city of Lyon. Prior to the French
Revolution, Jews had no right to have their own cemeteries, and the corpses of the
deceased were buried in the basement of the local catholic hospital, the Hôtel- Dieu. In
recent years this centrally located building was completely renovated and converted into a
retail complex selling luxury brands. The discovery and subsequent identification of the
graves – and of some human remains – led to a complex confrontation between various
actors: archaeologists, employed either by the municipality or by the state; religious
authorities (mostly Lyons chief rabbi); the municipality itself; the private construction
companies involved; direct descendants of some of the Jews buried in the hospital‘s
basement; as well as the local media. The question of what to do with the graves took
centre stage, and while exhumations were favoured by both archaeologists and the
representatives of the families, the chief rabbi – supported by the construction companies
– proved reluctant to exhume, for religious reasons. In the first part of his article the
author details the origins of this Jewish funerary place and current knowledge about it.
He then goes on to analyse what was at stake in the long negotiations, arguing that the
memory of the Holocaust played a role in the attitude of many of the parties involved. By
way of conclusion he considers the decision not to exhume the graves and elaborates on the
reasons why this led to some dissatisfaction.
In the aftermath of conflict and gross human rights violations, victims have a right to
know what happened to their loved ones. Such a right is compromised if mass graves are not
adequately protected to preserve evidence, facilitate identification and repatriation of
the dead and enable a full and effective investigation to be conducted. Despite guidelines
for investigations of the missing, and legal obligations under international law, it is
not expressly clear how these mass graves are best legally protected and by whom. This
article asks why, to date, there are no unified mass-grave protection guidelines that
could serve as a model for states, authorities or international bodies when faced with
gross human rights violations or armed conflicts resulting in mass graves. The paper
suggests a practical agenda for working towards a more comprehensive set of legal
guidelines to protect mass graves.
Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, Spain has experienced a cycle of
exhumations of the mass graves of the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and has rediscovered
that the largest mass grave of the state is the monument that glorifies the Franco regime:
the Valley of the Fallen. Building work in the Sierra de Guadarrama, near Madrid, was
begun in 1940 and was not completed until 1958. This article analyses for the first time
the regimes wish, from the start of the works, for the construction of the Valley of the
Fallen to outdo the monument of El Escorial. At the same time the regime sought to create
a new location to sanctify the dictatorship through the vast transfer to its crypts of the
remains of the dead of the opposing sides of the war.
Archaeologists and anthropologists specializing in the field of funerary customs have been used to considering the degree of social, religious and political investment placed in the dead body. The treatment of human remains following their exhumation and the legal status assigned to them as individuals pose a new set of legal and political problems of a particularly thorny nature. The studies of Francisco Ferrandiz on Spain and Elisabeth Claverie on Bosnia have revealed that the legal and symbolic status given to human remains in situations of mass violence can vary from material evidence to that of simple detritus. It is important to note from the outset that the deployment of violence through the gulag occurred on a historical, geographical and sociological scale that has rarely been equalled. The mass violence accompanied by the confiscation, concealment or destruction of bodies is considered as being distinct from mass murders committed without confiscation.
Massacres, missing corpses, and silence in a Bosnian community
Newly available documentation from the State Archive of Bosnia-Herzegovina indicates that the majority of sites where Muslim civilians were massacred during the Second World War remained unmarked as late as the mid-1980s. This chapter seeks to answer the question of why so many sites in Bosnia-Herzegovina where Muslim civilians were murdered remained unmarked after the war. It does so through the reconstruction and analysis of the wartime and postwar history of Kulen Vakuf, a small town located in northwestern Bosnia. The corpses of the victims were never gathered and buried, and no monuments were even built in memory of them. This resulted in a silence whereby the region's inhabitants learned how not to speak of the large number of corpses that everyone knew existed in close proximity.
This chapter provides a general introductory outline of the biopolitical approach to the study of genocide and mass violence, pointing out its central problems and limitations. It outlines the ways by which the research into corpses of mass violence and genocide is able to support a proper biopolitical analysis of the phenomena concerned. The correlationism of biopolitics has led to the interpretation of genocide as a possible manifestation of a correlation between a historically specific political subjectivity and a political reality that neither precedes nor derives from the political subjectivity experiencing it. Modern biopower is a generative, cultivating power that seeks to stimulate, enhance, accelerate, better, regulate and normalize its object of concern, human populations. The chapter then refers to the biopolitical meaning of the rise of forensic anthropology as a professional and authoritative interpreter of corpses as planes of inscription.
A war of extermination, grave looting, and culture wars in the American West
Focussing on the exhumation of Native American gravesites in the American West in the 20th century, the chapter presents a counter-narrative to many of the prevailing assumptions surrounding the exhumation of the dead: that the descendants, biological and cultural, of the victims of mass crimes of genocide and violence want their ancestors to be traced, exhumed, identified, named, and publicly acknowledged. But to understand the history of this region’s bitter legacies requires a larger context and backstory, one in which archaeological-scientific abuse was one of three interrelated catastrophes that indigenous people experienced.
This chapter explores representations of cross-border mobilities in the Ukrainian-Romanian borderlands. In 2007-2009, cross-border trading and shopping had established themselves as an important part of the local economy and integral to daily life in local communities. Nestled within the thousands of border crossings that were made every day were feelings of shame on the part of those living on the Ukrainian side of the border. This shame was relational across two levels: firstly, as a personal shame in the practices involved in cross-border small trading – the payments of bribes, the flirtation with Romanian customs officials and interactions with money-changers; secondly, a more general, collective sense of shame that such practices should be taking place across a border, which had previously sheltered Soviet citizens from the humiliations of living under late socialism in Ceausescu’s Romania. The chapter elucidates how for the villagers involved the intersection of these levels of shame emerged in dominant narratives of the trade, which not only challenged elite level nation-building in Ukraine, but also made use of existing narrative forms, primarily anecdotes and jokes. What emerges is a much more complex theoretical understanding of the trans-temporality of shame at the border.