This article will investigate the process of confronting death in cases of the
disappeared of the last military dictatorship in Argentina. Based on the exhumation and
identification of the body of a disappeared person, the article will reflect on how the
persons social situation can be reconfigured, causing structural changes within the family
and other groups. This will be followed by a discussion of the reflections generated by
the anthropologist during his or her interview process, as well as an investigation into
the authors own experiences in the field. This intimate relationship between the
anthropologist and death, through the inevitable contact that takes place among the
bodies, causes resonances in the context both of exhumations and of identifications in the
anthropologists wider fieldwork.
The concealment of bodies during
the militarydictatorship in Uruguay
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
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.
This article will describe the contemporary scientific techniques used to excavate and
identify the dead bodies of disappeared detainees from the Uruguayan dictatorship. It will
highlight the developments that have led to increased success by forensic anthropologists
and archaeologists in uncovering human remains, as well as their effects, both social and
political, on promoting the right to the truth and mechanisms of transitional justice.
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.
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.
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister
to speak of.
How does Brazil fit into this new ‘global disorder’? Confusion in the inter-state
system arguably creates opportunities, especially for Southern states. What role might Brazil
play in defining whatever global order is to come next?
CA: Right now, Brazil is very badly placed. But I think this moment will pass. I
am confident of this. I used to say this during the militarydictatorship: ‘I am a
pessimist in the short-term and an optimist in the long-term.’ This phrase is, today,
relevant to the way I think about Brazil. The
over Brazil, establishing in the process one of the longest militarydictatorships in recent Latin American history. The 1964 coup against President João Goulart had been motivated in large part by the left-wing president’s planned social reforms and friendly policy towards Cuba, during a period in which Washington was concerned about Cuban and Soviet influence in the region. From the late 1960s onwards, the military had become increasingly repressive, closing down Congress and opposition parties and imposing censorship in the press, broadcast media and the arts
Embodying the disappeared of the Argentinian dictatorship through law
Seeking the dead among the living:
embodying the disappeared of the
Argentinian dictatorship through law 1
Y así seguimos andando
curtidos de soledad,
y en nosotros nuestros muertos
pa’ que nadie quede atrás.
(Atahualpa Yupanqui 2)
The state policy of enforced disappearances in Argentina, planned
and implemented during the militarydictatorship of 1976–83, still
has a striking effect today: in the absence of any corpses of the disappeared, the families seek the dead among the living. Their quest
through the law embodies the
pattern when this region is observed from an aerial view.
The African American photographer George Love (1937–95) photographed
a variety of these waterscapes. Some of them are present in the photobook
Amazônia , put together in collaboration with Claudia Andujar (1931–),
a naturalised Brazilian photographer, and released by the now defunct São Paulo
publishing house Praxis in 1978, during the Brazilian militarydictatorship (see plates 11 , 12 , 13 and 14 ). The book, like the river, is also the result of a confluence. A