The Tomašica mass grave and the trial of Ratko Mladić
This article focuses on the judicial consideration of the scientific analysis of the Tomašica mass grave, in the Prijedor municipality of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Often referred to as the largest mass grave in Europe since the Second World War, this grave was fully discovered in September 2013 and the scientific evidence gathered was included in the prosecution of Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Based on the exhaustive analysis of all the publicly available trial transcripts, this article presents how the Tomašica evidence proved symptomatic of the way in which forensic sciences and international criminal justice intertwine and of the impact of the former over the latter on the admissibility of evidence, the conduct of proceedings and the qualification of the crimes perpetrated.
The display of human remains is a controversial issue in many contemporary societies, with many museums globally removing them from display. However, their place in genocide memorials is also contested. Objections towards the display of remains are based strongly in the social sciences and humanities, predicated on assumptions made regarding the relationship between respect, identification and personhood. As remains are displayed scientifically and anonymously, it is often argued that the personhood of the remains is denied, thereby rendering the person ‘within’ the remains invisible. In this article I argue that the link between identification and personhood is, in some contexts, tenuous at best. Further, in the context of Cambodia, I suggest that such analyses ignore the ways that local communities and Cambodians choose to interact with human remains in their memorials. In such contexts, the display of the remains is central to restoring their personhood and dignity.
Sacralisation and militarisation in the remembrance of the ‘cursed soldiers’
Marije Hristova and Monika Żychlińska
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.
Debates on the relevance of repatriation of indigenous human remains are water under the bridge today. Yet, a genuine will for dialogue to work through colonial violence is found lacking in the European public sphere. Looking at local remembrance of the Majimaji War (1905–7) in the south of Tanzania and a German–Tanzanian theatre production, it seems that the spectre of colonial headhunting stands at the heart of claims for repatriation and acknowledgement of this anti-colonial movement. The missing head of Ngoni leader Songea Mbano haunts the future of German–Tanzanian relations in heritage and culture. By staging the act of post-mortem dismemberment and foregrounding the perspective of descendants, the theatre production Maji Maji Flava offers an honest proposal for dealing with stories of sheer colonial violence in transnational memory.
Greer Vanderbyl, John Albanese, and Hugo F. V. Cardoso
The sourcing of cadavers for North American skeletal reference collections occurred immediately after death and targeted the poor and marginalised. In Europe, collections sourced bodies that were buried and unclaimed after some time in cemeteries with no perpetual care mandate, and may have also targeted the underprivileged. The relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and abandonment was examined in a sample of unclaimed remains (603 adults and 98 children) collected from cemeteries in the city of Lisbon, Portugal, that were incorporated in a collection. Results demonstrate that low SES individuals are not more likely to be abandoned nor to be incorporated in the collection than higher SES individuals. Furthermore, historical data indicate that the poorest were not incorporated into the collection, because of burial practices. Although the accumulation of collections in North America was facilitated by structural violence that targeted the poor and marginalised, this phenomenon seems largely absent in the Lisbon collection.
This article traces how the queer Black writer James Baldwin’s
transnational palate and experiences influenced the ways he wrote about Black
domestic spaces in the late twentieth century. In the 1960s and 1970s, while
Black feminist cooks and writers like Edna Lewis, Jessica B. Harris, and
Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor developed new theories of soul food in relation to the
Black American community and broader American cuisine, Baldwin incorporated
these philosophies and transnational tastes into his lifestyle and works. He
traveled and worked around Europe, settling in places like Paris, Istanbul, and
Saint-Paul de Vence for years at a time. In Saint-Paul de Vence, where he spent
his last years, he set up his own welcome table, at which he hosted
internationally renowned guests and shared his love of cuisine. Inevitably,
Baldwin’s passion for cooking and hosting meals became a large, though
scholarly neglected, component of his novels and essays. In his novels
Another Country, which he finished in Istanbul and
published in 1962, and Just Above My Head, which he finished in
Saint-Paul de Vence and published in 1979, Baldwin’s depictions of food
and Black kitchens take a queer turn. Instead of lingering on traditional Black
family structures, these texts specifically present new formulations of intimate
home life and reimagine relationships between food, kitchens, race, and sex in
the late twentieth century.
Between “Stranger in the Village” and I Am Not Your
Jovita dos Santos Pinto, Noémi Michel, Patricia Purtschert, Paola Bacchetta, and Vanessa Naef
James Baldwin’s writing, his persona, as well as his public speeches,
interviews, and discussions are undergoing a renewed reception in the arts, in
queer and critical race studies, and in queer of color movements. Directed by
Raoul Peck, the film I Am Not Your Negro decisively contributed
to the rekindled circulation of Baldwin across the Atlantic. Since 2017,
screenings and commentaries on the highly acclaimed film have prompted
discussions about the persistent yet variously racialized temporospatial
formations of Europe and the U.S. Stemming from a roundtable that followed a
screening in Zurich in February 2018, this collective essay wanders between the
audio-visual and textual matter of the film and Baldwin’s essay
“Stranger in the Village,” which was also adapted into a
film-essay directed by Pierre Koralnik, staging Baldwin in the Swiss village of
Leukerbad. Privileging Black feminist, postcolonial, and queer of color
perspectives, we identify three sites of Baldwin’s transatlantic
reverberations: situated knowledge, controlling images, and everyday sexual
racism. In conclusion, we reflect on the implications of racialized, sexualized
politics for today’s Black feminist, queer, and trans of color movements
located in continental Europe—especially in Switzerland and France.
Reading James Baldwin’s Existential Hindsight in Go Tell It
on the Mountain
This essay reads James Baldwin’s first novel, Go Tell It on the
Mountain, through the lenses of European existentialism and Black
existential thought to arrive at a new understanding of the novel itself as well
as essential stages of its development. Archival sources and close reading
reveal Baldwin’s historically and existentially informed artistic vision,
summed up in the terms hindsight and insight.
His thoughtful, uncomfortable engagement with the past leads to a recuperated
relationship to the community and constitutes existential hindsight, which
informs his inward understanding of himself—his insight. This
investigation draws on various works from Baldwin’s fiction, essays,
interviews, and correspondence to arrive at a better understanding of the
writer’s intellectual and artistic development, focusing especially on
the professed objectives behind, and major revisions of, the novel. I conclude
the essay through a close reading of the conversion scene that constitutes Part
Three of Go Tell It on the Mountain.
Black Women as Surrogates of Liberation in James Baldwin’s
If Beale Street Could Talk
Marquita R. Smith
This essay analyzes how James Baldwin’s late novel If Beale Street
Could Talk represents Black women’s care work in the face of
social death as an example of how Black women act as surrogates for Black
liberation giving birth to a new world and possibilities of freedom for Black
(male) people. Within the politics of Black nationalism, Black women were
affective workers playing a vital role in the (re)creation of heteronormative
family structures that formed the basis of Black liberation cohered by a belief
in the power of patriarchy to make way for communal freedom. This essay
demonstrates how Beale Street’s imagining of freedom
centers not on what Black women do to support themselves or each other, but on
the needs of the community at large, with embodied sacrifice as a presumed
condition of such liberation.