This paper will examine the excavation of mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has evolved into a significantly standardized yet methodologically flexible set of procedures based on integrated principles of forensic archaeology, forensic anthropology and crime scene processing – the overall goal of which is to maximize the collection and documentation of all sets of human remains, forensic artifacts and features for the purposes of establishing an objective historical record, supporting the criminal justice process and the victim identification process. In particular, the phenomenon of the secondary mass grave will be explored. Why might a secondary mass grave play a distinct role from a primary mass grave, and in what ways, and for whom? Through an (admittedly implicit) description of the actor-network in which these graves are embedded, and the many sorts of actants with which they are in relation, the authors will attempt to describe the precarious and shifting place of Bosnia’s secondary mass graves in the country’s processes of social reconciliation and peace-building.
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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.