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T.K. Ralebitso-Senior
,
T.J.U. Thompson
, and
H.E. Carney

In the mid-1990s, the crime scene toolkit was revolutionised by the introduction of DNA-based analyses such as the polymerase chain reaction, low copy number DNA analysis, short-tandem repeat typing, pulse-field gel electrophoresis and variable number tandem repeat. Since then, methodological advances in other disciplines, especially molecular microbial ecology, can now be adapted for cutting-edge applications in forensic contexts. Despite several studies and discussions, there is, however, currently very little evidence of these techniques adoption at the contemporary crime scene. Consequently, this article discusses some of the popular omics and their current and potential exploitations in the forensic ecogenomics of body decomposition in a crime scene. Thus, together with published supportive findings and discourse, knowledge gaps are identified. These then justify the need for more comprehensive, directed, concerted and global research towards state-of-the-art microecophysiology method application and/or adaptation for subsequent successful exploitations in this additional context of microbial forensics.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Marco Aurelio Guimarães
,
Raffaela Arrabaça Francisco
,
Sergio Britto Garcia
,
Martin Evison
,
Maria Eliana Castro Pinheiro
,
Iara Xavier Pereira
,
Diva Santana
, and
Julie Alvina Guss Patrício

Truth commissions are widely recognised tools used in negotiation following political repression. Their work may be underpinned by formal scientific investigation of human remains. This paper presents an analysis of the role of forensic investigations in the transition to democracy following the Brazilian military governments of 1964–85. It considers practices during the dictatorship and in the period following, making reference to analyses of truth commission work in jurisdictions other than Brazil, including those in which the investigation of clandestine burials has taken place. Attempts to conceal the fate of victims during the dictatorship, and the attempts of democratic governments to investigate them are described. Despite various initiatives since the end of the military government, many victims remain unidentified. In Brazil, as elsewhere, forensic investigations are susceptible to political and social influences, leading to a situation in which relatives struggle to obtain meaningful restitution and have little trust in the transitional justice process.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Actions for the missing: scientific and vernacular forms of war dead accounting
Tâm T. T. Ngô
and
Sarah Wagner

This special issue examines Asian experiences of war and mass death in the previous century, with case studies from China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam (North and South, among its diaspora and across multiple generations). In this introduction we highlight several of the wider analytical interventions offered by the articles: (1) the spatiopolitical dynamics of war dead accounting in which forms of vernacular forensic expertise interact with and inform internationally honed, empirically grounded practices of exhumation and identification; (2) the complex hierarchy of authority over remains that structures programmes of war dead accounting; (3) the variegated (as opposed to monolithic) nature of war dead themselves; and (4) the material ecosystems of remains, graves, cemeteries and the non-human forces of decay acting upon them. Finally, the introduction highlights the issue’s comparative potential: that is, what these different cultural, religious and ideological modes of meaning-making reveal about why and how human remains matter in the aftermath of war – and not just according to Western notions of national memory politics in which the soldier stands in for the state and collective mourning animates the national imaginary.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal

This edited volume examines the performance of physicians, psychiatrists and other scientists as expert witnesses in modern European courts of law and police investigations. Its chapters discuss cases from criminal, civil and international law to parse the impact of forensic evidence and expertise in different European countries (Scotland, England, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Portugal, Norway and the Netherlands) in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They show how modern forensic science and technology was inextricably entangled with political ideology, gender norms, changes in the law and legal systems. New scientific ideas and technology, such as blood tests and DNA, helped develop forensic science, but did not necessarily lead to a straightforward acceptance of expertise in the courtroom. Discussing fascinating case studies, the chapters in this book highlight how the ideology of authoritarian and liberal regimes affected the practical enactment of forensic expertise. They also emphasise the influence of images of masculinity and femininity on the performance of experts and their assessment of evidence, victims and perpetrators, for example in cases of rape, infanticide and crimes of passion. This book is an important contribution to our knowledge of modern European forensic practices, which, as several chapters underline, sometimes surprisingly diverge from institutional regulations.

Ernesto Schwartz-Marin
and
Arely Cruz-Santiago

The article will present the findings of ethnographic research into the Colombian and Mexican forensic systems, introducing the first citizen-led exhumation project made possible through the cooperation of scholars, forensic specialists and interested citizens in Mexico. The coupling evolution and mutual re-constitution of forensic science will be explored, including new forms of citizenship and nation building projects – all approached as lived experience – in two of Latin America‘s most complex contexts: organised crime and mass death.

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
France and its war dead in 1914 and 1915
Adrien Douchet
,
Taline Garibian
, and
Benoît Pouget

The aim of this article is to shed light on the conditions under which the funerary management of human remains was carried out by the French authorities during the early years of the First World War. It seeks to understand how the urgent need to clear the battlefield as quickly as possible came into conflict with the aspiration to give all deceased an individualised, or at the very least dignified, burial. Old military funerary practices were overturned and reconfigured to incorporate an ideal that sought the individual identification of citizen soldiers. The years 1914–15 were thus profoundly marked by a clash between the pragmatism of public health authorities obsessed with hygiene, the infancy of emerging forensic science, the aching desire of the nation to see its children buried individually and various political and military imperatives related to the conduct of the war.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Arely Cruz-Santiago
and
Ernesto Schwartz-Marin

COVID-19 has reinstated the sovereign enclosures of corpse management that mothers of the disappeared had so successfully challenged in the past decade. To explore how moral duties toward the dead are being renegotiated due to COVID-19, this article puts forward the notion of biorecuperation, understood as an individualised form of forensic care for the dead made possible by the recovery of biological material. Public health imperatives that forbid direct contact with corpses due to the pandemic, interrupt the logics of biorecuperation. Our analysis is based on ten years of experience working with families of the disappeared in Mexico, ethnographic research within Mexico’s forensic science system and online interviews conducted with medics and forensic scientists working at the forefront of Mexico City’s pandemic. In the face of increasing risks of viral contagion and death, this article analyses old and new techniques designed to bypass the prohibitions imposed by the state and its monopoly over corpse management and identification.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Criminal cases and the projection of expectations about forensic DNA technologies in the Portuguese press
Filipe Santos

Introduction DNA technologies have been at the forefront of a renewed enthusiasm surrounding forensic science and its promises and expectations for crime fighting. 1 In the early 2000s, Portugal was starting to discuss the possibility of building a universal DNA database. 2 However, considering the threats to individual rights and civil liberties that

in Forensic cultures in modern Europe
Open Access (free)
Willemijn Ruberg

prosecution, and shifting ideas on nation, class and gender. In this introduction, I will explore new insights in the history of forensic science and address how the chapters in this volume both complement this history and point to new avenues in the research on forensic culture. The turns to practice and culture in the historiography of forensic science For a long time, the history of

in Forensic cultures in modern Europe