Open Access (free)
Élisabeth Anstett, Jean-Marc Dreyfus, and Caroline Fournet
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The Tomašica mass grave and the trial of Ratko Mladić
Caroline Fournet

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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Cambodia’s bones
Fiona Gill

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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Yann LeGall

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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Abstract only
Material reckonings with military histories
Henrietta Lidchi

Looking at European developments from 2017 to 2019, the Afterword situates the volume among the resurgent interest in questions of contested histories, calls for restitution, and the resurgence of provenance research. It argues that given the varied ways European nations are addressing questions of colonial collections, it seems contradictory that the collections of military museums are seemingly absent from the debate. The chapter consequently considers the affective values of objects, and the symbolic nature of return, arguing that there is a distinction to objects in UK military collections, linked to the idea of ‘sentiment’. Looking again at the conflict highlighted in the Introduction, it addresses two initiatives in 2018 in the UK which discussed the 1868 capture of the fortress at Maqdala and two items, again linked to Emperor Tewodros II, which over time have troubled their national custodians. It considers how such questions were addressed through display at the Victoria and Albert Museum and links this to the National Army Museum’s gesture of returning hair samples linked to Emperor Tewodros. Comparing these two initiatives it seeks to understand the historical moment in which such discussions, and therefore the issues addressed in Dividing the Spoils, can be more widely understood.

in Dividing the spoils
A contrasting choreography of flags, military booty and skulls from late nineteenth-century Africa
John Mack

The later years of the Victorian era saw a series of ‘small wars’ and large battles conducted in Africa. This essay analyses two of these taking place in successive years (1897 and 1898): the Benin Punitive Expedition in the riverine creeks of south-eastern Nigeria and the Battle of Omdurman in the deserts of Sudan. In spite of their clear imperial motivations, in both cases military engagements were justified as defensible retaliation for the actions of what were represented as callous rulers. Yet the two conflicts otherwise contrast sharply in scale, in how they were reported, what was acquired by way of booty and in the ultimate fate of what was brought back from each. Some objects were judged appropriate to the royal collections, others to the national collections or smaller military museums, with significant numbers shifting between them. Each relocation, it is argued, represents a different commodification. The complex range of divergent object biographies is discussed, exploring how some have retained an enduring status as trophies while others have taken on a new personhood beyond the circumstances of their original acquisition.

in Dividing the spoils
Politics, friendship, and intimacy in suffragists’ letters
James Keating

This chapter considers the politics and practice of Australian and New Zealand suffragists’ letter writing. Tracing Australasian women’s intercolonial and international circuits of discussion, it finds them smaller, more functional, and less complete than previously described. Examining the scribbled letters, typewritten communiques, and signed cartes-de-visite sent between suffragists and preserved in organisational archives and personal scrapbooks, it also scrutinises the material and emotional cultures of feminist correspondence, uncovering the intimate practices that bound suffragists into an international movement. It concludes with a close reading of the expatriate British libertarian and social purity activist Mary Steadman Aldis’ 1894–95 campaign to harness metropolitan outrage to force the reform of New Zealand’s dormant Contagious Diseases Act. Juxtaposing tropes of epistolary friendship against the disruptive possibilities of letter writing, it sheds new light on a moment when cracks emerged in the relationship between enfranchised and disenfranchised women in the English-speaking world.

in Distant Sisters
John M. MacKenzie

This chapter contextualises the way collecting from military campaigns can be viewed as the acquisition of trophies parallel to the trophy collecting of hunting. From the eighteenth century onwards, hunting and shooting were seen as the image of war and were considered essential training for campaigning. Hunting produced natural history trophies which became a central collecting interest for museums, messes, clubs and private homes. The collecting of ethnographic trophies was closely related to this phenomenon in contemporary understanding, as part of a comprehensive approach to collecting the natural history of the world and its peoples. Colonial military campaigning was often associated with hunting expeditions and trophy collecting of both sorts took place. In the nineteenth century colonial campaigning and hunting stepped up its incidence and geographical range. Improvements in transport technology and auction-house infrastructures and advertising facilitated the dispersal of such materials. This chapter discusses the significance and meaning of such collecting in several ways: for the development of imperial ideologies, for the arousal of popular interests, and for the emergence of natural historical, ethnographic, anthropological and ideological concerns. It also examines how it came to be significant for the instruction of a wider audience, becoming part of imperial propaganda.

in Dividing the spoils