Since the late 1980s, forensic science has played an increasingly important role in how societies and states address human rights violations. From the pioneering work of the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense), established to investigate the cases of disappeared people under the military government in power from 1976 to 1983, to the efforts to identify the missing from the wars in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s and in countries such as Chile, Peru, Guatemala, Cyprus, and Iraq, forensic science has become a means of intervening into post-conflict societies. Its expertise is now routinely sought to help compile medico-legal facts, evidence for use in judicial proceedings, as well as to recover and identify the remains of persons missing as a result of armed conflict and, in many cases, state-sponsored violence.
Recovering and identifying missing persons, however, is more than scientific intervention. It is a profoundly social process, often driven by those most intimately connected to the violence and its victims–that is, the families of the missing themselves. Exhuming bodies and returning them to grieving families and communities are also inherently political acts. Drawing on a range of both practical and theoretical expertise, this panel examines the work of forensic science in post-conflict societies, focusing on examples in Latin America and the former Yugoslavia, as well as a new initiative within the American Academy of Forensic Science.
Body as Witness: Forensic Science and Human Rights was held at George Washington University on 6 May 2015 and included panellists Luis Fondebrider, Adam Rosenblatt, Doug Ubelaker and Sarah Wagner.
The workshop Despues de la Violencia – Après la violence will take place 8-9 May 2014 at Fundación Polo Mercosur in Montevideo, Uruguay. The event is organised by Elisabeth Anstett (CNRS – Iris), José López Mazz (Universidad de la República Uruguay) and Denis Merklen (Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – IHEAL), and will discuss the European and South American legacies of extreme violence in the twentieth century.
How can democracies face their history of rebellions, massacres, state terrorism and mass crimes? The workshop will put the European and South American experiences side by side, in order to analyze the different devices and outputs of violence. Anthropologists, philosophers, historians, sociologists and lawyers will here gather to understand the limits and contributions taught by each national experience.
On 13 May 2014 the book <Cadáveres impensables, cadáveres impensados> created by the Corpses of mass violence and genocide programme will be presented at the Centro Cultural de la Memoria Haroldo Conti in Buenos Aires. Elisabeth Anstett (research programme director and author), Sevane Garibian (author) and Carlos Somigliana (Equipo Argentino de Antropología Forense) will discuss the book and its investigation into a multidisciplinary approach to understanding mass violence and the human body.
“ El cuerpo ciertamente representa una temática transversal de las Ciencias Sociales. No obstante esto, aun considerado en todos sus estados al hallarse vivo, desaparece casi totalmente de la mirada de los investigadores una vez muerto. Únicamente los arqueólogos y los antropólogos especializados en el campo de lo funerario se venían preocupando por la implicación social, religiosa o política de la cual es objeto el cuerpo muerto en contextos de producción masiva de cadáveres.“
Read the full event listing here.
Caroline Fournet delivered the keynote speech at the seminar ‘Methodological and Theoretical Perspectives in International Criminal Justice’ on 24 April 2014 in Oslo, exploring critical empirical and theoretical approaches to international criminal justice and international crimes.
Recent decades have seen an unprecedented growth of institutionalization, practice, scholarship and public debate on international criminal justice (ICJ). With objectives such as delivering justice, ending impunity and restoring peace, stability and security, a number of new unprecedented international institutions was established and a new body of international criminal law developed rapidly.
The aim of the workshop was to bring together scholars who take a critical empirical or theoretical approach in studying international criminal justice and international crimes, focusing on methodological and theoretical challenges in studying international criminal justice and international crimes.
To read the full list of speakers and papers presented, please see here.
On the 26-27 September the Centre Georges Chevrier organised the workshop ‘The exhumation of mass graves in the twenty-first century: practices and social customs’. The event is part of a research project exploring the different social issues and practices brought by the recent exhumations of abused bodies discovered in mass graves across various temporal and spatial contexts. The workshop will compare the approaches of archaeologists, anthropologists and historians who preside over excavation sites for openings pits and processing data, while intending to grow a dialogue between these disciplines to reflect on the memory issues these practices raise.
For more information on the research project ‘L’exhumation des fosses communes au XXIe siècle’ and for audio podcasts of the event, please see here.
The Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide programme will present a lecture as part of the ‘Faces and Traces of Violence’ series at the Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales in Madrid on May 23, 2013. Addressing the three central concerns of the programme: destruction, identification and (re)conciliation, the lecture will contain two presentations from both Dr Elisabeth Anstett and Dr Jean-Marc Dreyfus on, respectively, the long-term missing corpses resulting from Soviet-era mass violence and French exhumations in Germany following World War II.
For further information on the ‘Faces and Traces of Violence’ lecture series, please see here.
In 2006, Museum of London archaeologists excavated a burial ground at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel. What they found was both extraordinary and unexpected.
The excavation revealed some 262 burials. In the confusing mix of bones was extensive evidence of dissection, autopsy and amputation, bones wired for teaching, and animals dissected for comparative anatomy. Dating from a key period – that of the Anatomy Act of 1832 – the discovery is one of the most significant in the UK, offering fresh insights into early 19th century dissection and the trade in dead bodies.
Now, 180 years later, you can uncover this intriguing story in Doctors, Dissection and Resurrection Men, a major exhibition at the Museum of London. Bringing together human and animal remains, exquisite anatomical models and drawings, documents and original artefacts, the exhibition reveals the intimate relationship between surgeons pushing forward anatomical study and the ‘Resurrection men’ who supplied them; and the shadowy practices prompted by a growing demand for corpses.
The exhibition will run until 14 April 2013.