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Thomas Vaisset

On 25 September 1911 the battleship Liberté exploded in Toulon harbour. This tragedy is just one of the many disasters that the French fleet suffered at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries and also represents the peak of these calamities, since it is undoubtedly the most deadly suffered by a French Navy ship in peacetime. The aim of this article is to study how the navy managed this disaster and the resulting deaths of service personnel, which were all the more traumatic because the incident happened in France’s main military port and in circumstances that do not match the traditional forms of death at sea.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The fate of Namibian skulls in the Alexander Ecker Collection in Freiburg
Reinhart Kößler

This article explores the history of the Alexander Ecker Collection and situates it within the larger trajectory of global collecting of human remains during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This is then linked to the specific context of the genocide in then German South West Africa (1904–8), with the central figure of Eugen Fischer. The later trajectory of the collection leads up to the current issues of restitution. The Freiburg case is instructive since it raises issues about the possibilities and limitations of provenance research. At the same time, the actual restitution of fourteen human remains in 2014 occurred in a way that sparked serious conflict in Namibia which is still on-going four years later. In closing, exigencies as well as pressing needs in connection with the repatriation and (where possible) rehumanisation of human remains are discussed.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Ideology, physical destruction, and memory
Rémi Korman

the holder’s ethnic origin from 1931 onwards. While these representations of the Tutsi body formulated in the colonial era remained throughout the twentieth century, the meanings they carried changed over time. An idealized ‘Tutsi beauty’ became a mark of stigma following the fall of the Tutsi monarchy and the establishment of the first exclusively Hutu Rwandan republic at the beginning of the 1960s. However, it was at the beginning of the 1990s that these representations underwent a radical shift. With the emergence of economic tensions at the end of the 1980s, the

in Destruction and human remains
Methodological approaches

Mass violence is one of the defining phenomena of the twentieth century, which some have even called the 'century of genocides'. The study of how the dead body is treated can lead us to an understanding of the impact of mass violence on contemporary societies. Corpses of mass violence and genocide, especially when viewed from a biopolitical perspective, force one to focus on the structures of the relations between all that participates in the enfolding case study. Argentina is an extraordinary laboratory in the domain of struggle against impunity and of 'restoration of the truth'. It constitutes a useful paradigm in the context of reflection on the corpses of mass violence. Its special character, in the immediate aftermath of the military dictatorship, is to test almost the entirety of juridical mechanisms in the handling of state crimes. The trigger for both the intercommunal violence and the civil war was the mass murders by the Ustaša. This book discusses the massacres carried out by the Ustaša in Croatia during the Second World War. After a brief presentation of the historical background, the massacres carried out by the Ustaša militia and their corpse disposal methods are described. Using Rwanda as a case study, the book proposes an agenda for ethnographic research to explore the relationship between concealment and display in contexts of genocide. This relationship is explored in detail after a discussion of the historical background to the 1994 genocide.

Disposal and concealment in genocide and mass violence

Destruction and human remains investigates a crucial question frequently neglected from academic debate in the fields of mass violence and Genocide Studies: what is done to the bodies of the victims after they are killed? Indeed, in the context of mass violence and genocide, death does not constitute the end of the executors' work. Following the abuses carried out by the latter, their victims' remains are treated and manipulated in very particular ways, amounting in some cases to social engineering. The book explores this phase of destruction, whether by disposal, concealment or complete annihilation of the body, across a range of extreme situations to display the intentions and socio-political framework of governments, perpetrators and bystanders. The book will be split into three sections; 1) Who were the perpetrators and why were they chosen? It will be explored whether a division of labour created social hierarchies or criminal careers, or whether in some cases this division existed at all. 2) How did the perpetrators kill and dispose of the bodies? What techniques and technologies were employed, and how does this differ between contrasting and evolving circumstances? 3) Why did the perpetrators implement such methods and what does this say about their motivations and ideologies? The book will focus in particular on the twentieth century, displaying innovative and interdisciplinary approaches and dealing with case studies from different geographical areas across the globe. The focus will be placed on a re-evaluation of the motivations, the ideological frameworks and the technical processes displayed in the destruction of bodies.

Open Access (free)
The politics of exhumation in post-genocide Rwanda
Rémi Korman

Contrary to other countries that suffered mass violence in the late twentieth century, such as Bosnia, the issue of individual identification or DNA identification has never been considered seriously by the national and international agents of the memory in Rwanda. The lack of forensic investigation is a result of the financial situation of the Rwandan state after the genocide. In 1996, Rwanda was officially declared as the poorest country in the world. How in this context did Rwandan and international agents manage the memory of the genocide and especially the corpses? Considering the absence of a state-led individual identification program, how did exhumations occur and for what purposes? Who were the agents of exhumations in Rwanda? But also, what is the history behind the conservation of bones and corpses in genocide memorials? Based upon the study of the public archives of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide, this paper sheds some historical light on the debates around the management of genocide corpses in Rwanda since 1994.

in Human remains and identification
Open Access (free)
Corpses and mass violence: an inventory of the unthinkable
Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

Introduction. Corpses and mass violence: an inventory of the unthinkable Élisabeth Anstett & Jean-Marc Dreyfus Mass violence is one of the defining phenomena of the twentieth century, which some have even called the ‘century of genocides’.1 Scarred by the Armenian genocide, the Holodomor in Ukraine, the Spanish Civil War, the Holocaust, the gulags and, more recently, the crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia, Europe alone offers a range of examples of such extreme events.2 These outbreaks of mass violence particularly affected civilians, unlike most

in Human remains and mass violence
Open Access (free)
Why exhume? Why identify?
Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus

starting point the observation, which strikes anyone who simply reads the news, that the last decade of the twentieth century and the first years of the twenty-first century witnessed a tremendous resurgence of corpses produced by the extreme violence of the twentieth century: tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands in many countries. Cases are numerous, from the forensic anthropologists’ search for those ‘disappeared’ by the Argentine dictatorship from 1983, to the identification, now nearly systematic, of the bodies of victims of crimes committed in Bosnia and the

in Human remains and identification
José López Mazz

4 The concealment of bodies during the military dictatorship in Uruguay (1973–84)1 José López Mazz The political violence that occurred in Latin America during the second half of the twentieth century was deeply rooted in historic and prehistoric cultural traditions. To study it in a scientific way accordingly requires both the development of a specific set of cultural and historical methodologies and a leading role to be played by archaeological techniques and forensic anthropology. Our focus is in part on apprehending and understanding violent practices

in Human remains and identification
Open Access (free)
A war of extermination, grave looting, and culture wars in the American West
Tony Platt

stacked with human remains. The focus of this chapter is the exhumation of Native American gravesites in the American West in the twentieth century. But to understand this history’s bitter legacies requires a larger context and backstory, one in which archaeological-scientific abuse was one of three interrelated catastrophes that indigenous people experienced. Catastrophe one: destruction The Native people of what became California lived for thousands of years in decentralized, but by no means provincial ‘tribelets’, speaking a variety of languages, living relatively

in Human remains and identification