This chapter considers the corpses of mass violence in Cambodia. Cambodia's soil is made from the bodies of its children who have died throughout its history. Human remains have been variously defined and treated as corpses, dead people, ghosts, ancestors, bones-as-evidence and bones-as-memorials. There are similarities, at a village level, between the natural abodes of the land's tutelary spirits, such as groves, certain trees, termite hills or other mounds, and certain mass graves. The chapter explores how the question of observation schedules and temporality seems to be fundamental to our understanding of post-genocide Cambodian society, and in rural Khmer society. Following the 1991 peace accords, which were signed by all parties, including the Khmer Rouge guerrillas, and the placing of Cambodia under United Nations supervision, any reference to the genocide was not allowed in official documents.
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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.