This article considers how the reburial and commemoration of the human remains of the
Republican defeated during the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) is affected by the social,
scientific and political context in which the exhumations occur. Focusing on a particular
case in the southwestern region of Extremadura, it considers how civil society groups
administer reburial acts when a positive identification through DNA typing cannot be
attained. In so doing, the article examines how disparate desires and memories come
together in collective reburial of partially individuated human remains.
Established during the Guatemalan Peace Process, the Oslo Accord contemplates the
question of compensating the victims of internal armed conflict. Not only was this accord
founded on the principles of victims rights, but it also intends to contribute to the
democratic reconstruction of Guatemalan society through a process of recognition of
victims status and memory – intended to have a reconciling function. The article focuses
on the work of two organisations implementing the Oslo Accord and aims to analyse the
discourses and practices of the local actors and their perception of the application of
victims rights. Civil society actors and members of the National Compensation Programme
demonstrate different approaches both in practical work and in representations of what is
right. However, revendication of local cultural values is present in all actors discourse,
revealing their ambiguous position in regard to state government.
This paper traces the massacres of Jews and Soviet prisoners of war in November 1941
in the city of Bobruisk, Eastern Belarus. Sparked by a current memorial at one of the
killing sites, the author examines the historic events of the killings themselves and
presents a micro level analysis of the various techniques for murdering and disposing
of such large numbers of victims. A contrast will be shown between the types of
actions applied to the victims by the German army, SS, police personnel and other
local collaborators, reflecting an imposed racial hierarchisation even after their
Since the early 1990s, armed actors have invaded territories in the Chocó and Antioquia
departments of Colombia, inhabited by Afro-Colombians and Indians whose collective rights
in these territories had recently been legally recognised. Based on long-term fieldwork
among the Emberá Katío, this article examines social, cosmological and ritual alterations
and re-organisation around violent death. Following a national policy of post-conflict
reparations, public exhumations and identifications of human remains reveal new local
modes of understanding and administration. In particular, suicide, hitherto completely
unknown to the Emberá, broke out in a multitude of cases, mostly among the youth. Local
discourse attributes this phenomenon to the number of stray corpses resulting from the
violence, who are transformed into murderous spirits which shamans can no longer control.
The analysis focusses on the unprecedented articulation of a renewed eschatology, the
intricate effects of an internal political reorganisation and the simultaneous inroad into
their space of new forms of armed insurrectional violence. Thus the article will shed
light on the emergence of a new transitional moral economy of death among the Emberá.
Between 1975 and 1979, thirty-one unidentified bodies bearing marks of torture appeared
at various locations along Uruguays coastline. These bodies were material proof of the
death flights implemented in neighbouring Argentina after the military coup. In Uruguay,
in a general context of political crisis, the appearance of these anonymous cadavers first
generated local terror and was then rapidly transformed into a traumatic event at the
national level. This article focuses on the various reports established by Uruguayan
police and mortuary services. It aims to show how,the administrative and funeral
treatments given at that time to the dead bodies, buried anonymously (under the NN label)
in local cemeteries, make visible some of the multiple complicities between the Uruguayan
and Argentinean dictatorships in the broader framework of the Condor Plan. The repressive
strategy implemented in Argentina through torture and forced disappearance was indeed
echoed by the bureaucratic repressive strategy implemented in Uruguay through incomplete
and false reports, aiming to make the NN disappear once again.
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.
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.
International interventions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, that ultimately brought the war to
a standstill, emphasised recovering and identifying the missing as chief among the goals
of post-war repair and reconstruction, aiming to unite a heavily divided country. Still,
local actors keep,showing that unity is far from achieved and it is not a goal for all
those involved. This paper examines the various actors that have taken up the task of
locating and identifying the missing in order to examine their incentives as well as any
competing agendas for participating in the process. These efforts cannot be understood
without examining their impact both at the time and now, and we look at the biopolitics of
the process and utilisation of the dead within. Due to the vastness and complexity of this
process, instead of a conclusion, additional questions will be opened required for the
process to keep moving forward.
This article describes the powerplay around the recent discovery (summer 2015) of
eighteenth-century Jewish graves in the French city of Lyon. Prior to the French
Revolution, Jews had no right to have their own cemeteries, and the corpses of the
deceased were buried in the basement of the local catholic hospital, the Hôtel- Dieu. In
recent years this centrally located building was completely renovated and converted into a
retail complex selling luxury brands. The discovery and subsequent identification of the
graves – and of some human remains – led to a complex confrontation between various
actors: archaeologists, employed either by the municipality or by the state; religious
authorities (mostly Lyons chief rabbi); the municipality itself; the private construction
companies involved; direct descendants of some of the Jews buried in the hospital‘s
basement; as well as the local media. The question of what to do with the graves took
centre stage, and while exhumations were favoured by both archaeologists and the
representatives of the families, the chief rabbi – supported by the construction companies
– proved reluctant to exhume, for religious reasons. In the first part of his article the
author details the origins of this Jewish funerary place and current knowledge about it.
He then goes on to analyse what was at stake in the long negotiations, arguing that the
memory of the Holocaust played a role in the attitude of many of the parties involved. By
way of conclusion he considers the decision not to exhume the graves and elaborates on the
reasons why this led to some dissatisfaction.
Marco Aurelio Guimarães, Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco, Martin Evison, Edna Sadayo Miazato Iwamura, Carlos Eduardo Palhares Machado, Ricardo Henrique Alves da Silva, Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro, Diva Santana, and Julie Alvina Guss Patrício
Exhumation may be defined as the legally sanctioned excavation and recovery of the
remains of lawfully buried or – occasionally – cremated individuals, as distinct from
forensic excavations of clandestinely buried remains conducted as part of a criminal
investigation and from unlawful disinterment of human remains, commonly referred to as
bodysnatching. The aim of this article is to review the role of exhumation – so defined –
in the activities of CEMEL, the Medico-Legal Centre of the Ribeirão Preto Medical
School-University of São Paulo, in international, regional and local collaborations.
Exhumations form part of routine forensic anthropology casework; scientific research in
physical and forensic anthropology; and forensic casework conducted in collaboration with
the Brazilian Federal Police; and are carried out as part of humanitarian investigations
into deaths associated with the civil–military dictatorship of 1964 to 1985. This article
aims to offer a non-technical summary – with reference to international comparative
information – of the role of exhumation in investigative and scientific work and to
discuss developments in their historical and political context.