"Operation Carrot" was devised and executed by the Uruguayan military at the time of the country’s return to democracy, between 1983 and 1985. The objective of this secret operation was to exhume all the bodies of disappeared prisoners who had been murdered during the dictatorship, in order either to destroy them or make them disappear permanently. This chapter discusses the tools and methodological processes that allow us to physically identify and then interpret these types of actions, which are often extremely hard to detect, given that they are part of an intentional and systematic attempt by the killers to conceal their past deeds. However, we also seek to develop a better understanding of violence within Uruguayan social and political life: for, while the country’s dictatorship only lasted around ten years (between 1973 and 1984), political violence had already begun in the 1960s in the context of social conflicts surrounding land ownership, wages, and civil rights. It is, we argue, precisely because political violence is deeply rooted in Latin America that we must, in order to analyze it, adopt an integrated historical and anthropological approach which also draws on the more specialised disciplines of archaeology and forensic science.
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This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book shows the undeniable contribution and the limits of the biopower theory in the understanding of dead bodies en masse. It talks about the fact that criminology has for so long ignored mass crime, even though the link between the corpse and the criminal is one of the fundamentals of the discipline. The book addresses the issue of the practical and symbolic treatment of corpses by societies affected by mass violence. It shows how working ideologies along with historical legacy and geographical landscapes determined the disposal of the bodies. The book examines the simultaneously diplomatic and medicolegal nature of the activities of the French Search Commission for Corpses of Deportees in Germany. It also draws on German archives to describe the various modalities of treatment of corpses in Croatia.