Criminology workshop




Organiser: Jon Shute, University of Manchester, Co-investigator of the ERC Programme, ‘Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide


Criminologists have only very recently begun to confront the mass atrocities committed on European soil and in the name of the imperial/ideological ambitions of member states. As we are all equally aware in the centenary year of the beginning World War I, much thought and ceremony has been devoted to the burial and remembrance of military combatants in the graveyards of northern France and elsewhere. Fitting as this may be, the tens of millions of civilian deaths that occurred as an increasing proportion of all war dead throughout the twentieth century are not well commemorated, and to this total, we need to add the many more victims of mass crimes: war crimes, crimes against humanity, political repression and genocide. Very often, as remains the case in Spain, Bosnia, and numerous sites on the former Nazi-Soviet (1941-45) ‘eastern front’, the location and identity of the unexhumed dead are unknown.
In order to shed light on the uses made of, and the value and meaning ascribed to the human remains of supranational crimes of this nature, the European Research Council have recently funded a multidisciplinary four-year programme ‘Corpses of Mass Violence & Genocide’. As part of this programme, and in association with the Manchester Jean Monnet Centre for Excellence, a two-day workshop was recently held in the University of Manchester School of Law, entitled ‘Towards a Criminology of Mass Violence and the Corpse’.
Bringing together leading European scholars of crime and punishment whose work has touched on mass violence, together with experienced practitioners of forensic archaeology and humanitarian emergency response, the workshop had four aims: (i) to contextualise the area by analysing trends in the prevalence and nature of European mass violence and corpse disposal; (ii) to understand the socio-legal status and forensic value of cadavers, together with their potential criminological value; (iii) to describe theory and methods that can make sense of the treatment and distribution of dead bodies by perpetrators; and (iv) to understand the links between the legal/professional handling of corpses in peacetime and the illegal handling of them in times of conflict. In so doing, we hoped to lay some of the foundations for theoretical, methodological and practical engagement with the subject matter, better understand how societies do and do not come to terms with a legacy of mass violence, and assist in the important project of re-ascribing value to radically devalued lives.


In a lively two days, the organiser, Jon Shute (University of Manchester), made the case that the corpse radically extends the trauma of lethal violence in space and time, and that the discourse and action surrounding its location, identification and commemoration can often be an important space for the ‘moral-emotional work’ of transitional justice and post-conflict state building. Pieter Spierenburg (Erasmus University) took the long view of trends in lethal violence in Europe but also speculated on the possibility of inferring (pre)historic mass violence from analysis of patterns of population movements as revealed through modern genetic profiling. David Canter (University of Huddersfield) and Russell and Rebecca Dobash (University of Manchester) using varied methods and datasets, argued that there is pattern and meaning in ‘peacetime’ violence as revealed through homicide crime scene data. This perspective was radically extended to the analysis of mass graves in presentations by Ian Hanson (ICMP, Sarajevo), Patricia Furphy (Liverpool John Moores University) and Marco Guimaraes (University Sao Paulo) in connection with a variety of contexts of mass violence, including Bosnia, Cambodia and Brazil. Wayne Morrison (Saint Mary University of London) and Claire Moon (London School of Economics) gave erudite conceptual papers on the nature of confronting human remains of mass violence, from both criminological and ‘forensic humanitarian’ perspectives, while Caroline Fournet (University of Groningen) discussed the varied forensic meanings and use of human remains in international criminal justice settings. Finally, Tony Redmond (University of Manchester and Head of the UKs Disaster Emergency Response) and Paul Withers (Lancashire Police homicide unit) discussed trauma and trauma management when engaging in ‘corpsework’: dealing with the material and human consequences of mass death.
12.30-1.30     Buffet lunch (workshop rooms)
1.30-1.45       Welcome to the workshop. Jon Shute (University of Manchester, UK)

1.45-3.15       SESSION 1: Context and scope
Chair & discussant: Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS, France)
Jon Shute (University of Manchester, UK) Criminology, mass violence and the corpse: making the case”
Pieter Spierenburg (Erasmus University, Netherlands): “Toward a global history of homicide and organised murder”.

3.15-3.30       Coffee (workshop rooms)

3.30-5.00       SESSION 2. Pattern & meaning in the handling of the corpse 1: Serious ‘peacetime’ violence
Chair & discussant:  Caroline Fournet (University of Groningen, Netherlands)
David Canter (University of Huddersfield, UK) “Revisiting the violated body
Russell & Rebecca Dobash (University of Manchester, UK) “Uses of the body in intimate partner and sexual murder”

5.00-5.30       Refreshments (workshop rooms)

5.30-6.30       SESSION 3. Managing trauma in professional ‘corpsework’
Chair & discussant: Jon Shute (University of Manchester, UK)
Paul Withers (Lancashire Constabulary, UK) “Managing the trauma of homicide investigation
Tony Redmond (University of Manchester, UK) “Working with the corpse in humanitarian and conflict response’


9.30-11.00     SESSION 4: Confronting the corpse
Chair & discussant: Jean-Marc Dreyfus (University of Manchester, UK)
Wayne Morrison (Queen Mary University London, UK) “Morality at life’s boundary: Face-to-Face with the Mussulman
Claire Moon (London School of Economics, UK) “Forensic Humanitarianism and the Politics of the Grave

11.00-11.15 Coffee (workshop rooms)

11.15-12.45 SESSION 5: Socio-legal and forensic perspectives on the corpse
Chair & discussant: Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS, France)
Caroline Fournet (University of Groningen, Netherlands) “‘The legal status of mass graves: sites of burial, crime scenes and evidentiary goldmines
Ian Hanson (ICMP, Bosnia & Herzegovina) “Integrated data analysis and the search for the missing

12.45-1.45: Lunch (workshop rooms)

1.45- 3.15: SESSION 6. Pattern & meaning in the handling of the corpse 2: Mass violence
Chair & discussant: Jon Shute (University of Manchester, UK)
Mario Aurelio Guimaraes (University of Sao Paulo, Brazil) & Eliana Pinheiro (Representative of the Independent Group of Families of the Dead & Disappeared of the Brazilian Military Dictatorship) “Corpse Disposal in the Context of the Military Dictatorship in Brazil: A View for European Eyes
Patricia Furphy (Liverpool John Moores University, UK) “A Multivariate Analysis of Killing and Disposal Behaviours Exhibited During War Crimes: A Contribution to International Criminal Court Proceedings

3.15-4.00: General discussion, publication plans, closing remarks and close.

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