In Europe, and all over the world, mass violence and genocides have been a structural feature of the 20th century. Our research programme, Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide, was aiming at questioning the social legacy of mass violence by studying how different contemporary societies have coped with the first consequence of mass destruction: the mass production of cadavers.
What status and what value have indeed been given to corpses? What symbolic, social, religious, economic or political uses have been made of dead bodies in occupied Europe, the former Soviet Union, Bosnia, Spain but also Rwanda, Argentina or Cambodia, both during and after the massacres?
Bringing together perspectives of social anthropology, law and history, and raising the three main issues of destruction, research and identification, and restitution of human remains to society, this research programme directed by anthropologist Elisabeth Anstett (PI) and historian Jean-Marc Dreyfus, has enlighten how various social and cultural treatments of dead bodies simultaneously challenge common representations, legal practices and morality. Programme outputs have therefore open and strengthen the field of genocide studies by providing proper intellectual and theoretical tools for a better understanding of mass violence’s aftermaths in today societies.
This research programme, which started in February 2012 and ended in January 2016, has been entirely financed through a grant from the European Research Council.