Following a successful panel on “Among the Anonymous Dead: Exhumations and the Emotive Materiality of Deceased Victims of Mass Violence” that I organized for the 2014 American Anthropological Association annual meeting, the discussant, Sarah Wagner, and I were invited to write a reflective piece for the new Emergent Conversations series overseen by the Political and Legal Anthropology Review. In this piece, we highlight the growing interest that surrounds anonymous victims of mass atrocities in various locations around the world, and how dead bodies are often capable of affecting, both positively and negatively, efforts aimed at promoting social repair in transitional communities. We then briefly discuss the papers presented by the panel’s contributors, including John Harries, Jackie Leach-Scully, Dawnie Steadman, and myself, with particular emphasis placed on the themes of “emotive materiality” – how the physical and imagined presence of bones and other remains evokes emotional responses in those who come in contact with them – and “temporalities” – how the passage of time influences people’s reactions to the anonymous dead. A key outcome of the panel was the shared realization that the symbolic capital attributed to human remains in the aftermath of mass atrocities can be contested throughout a society. Assigning meaning to the anonymous dead is a process that is not solely state-driven, nor is it inherently consistent across time and space.
Building upon the network established as part of the workshop I organized last year on “Approaching Perpetrators,” Kjell Anderson and I have organized a three-part interdisciplinary panel on “New Horizons in Perpetrator Research,” which has now been accepted to the upcoming International Association of Genocide Scholars meeting in Yerevan, Armenia. Read the rest of this entry »
The fall 2014 issue of the African Conflict and Peacebuilding Review has just been released, and includes my review of Susan Thomson’s Whispering Truth to Power: Everyday Resistance to Reconciliation in Post-Genocide Rwanda. In brief, Thomson has written a rich, ethnographically informed book that offers valuable insights on how the current government’s program of national unity and reconciliation impacts the everyday lives of its rural citizens, with particular attention paid to the subtle but meaningful acts of resistance engaged in by rural Rwandans. As such, she complicates the claims of both the Rwandan government and the international community that the Rwandan government’s program of national unity and reconciliation is affecting positive change in Rwanda, and provides a relevant foundation for further studies of grassroots resistance in other conflict and post-conflict settings. Similarly, it represents a powerful indictment of those regional and international experts who would dismiss the Rwandan government’s poor human rights record in the region given the nation’s remarkable economic progress. Read the rest of this entry »
Call for papers: Panel on “New Horizons in Perpetrator Research” for the International Association of Genocide Scholars meetingOctober 22nd, 2014
Call for Papers:
New Horizons in Perpetrator Research
Thematic double panel for the 12th Meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars
July 8-12, 2015
Deadline: November 15, 2014 to meet the IAGS’ January 23, 2015 deadline
Organizers: Kjell Anderson, Netherlands Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies (NIOD), Netherlands, & Erin Jessee, University of Strathclyde, UK Read the rest of this entry »
New Journal Article: “Confessing Animals,” Redux – A Conversation between Alexander Freund and Erin JesseeSeptember 2nd, 2014
The latest issue of the Oral History Review has just launched and in addition to an impressive series of articles by Henry Greenspan, Sherna Berger Gluck, Linda Shopes, and the late Kim Lacy Rogers, among others, it includes an extended version of a recent online exchange between Alexander Freund and I titled “Confessing Animals,” Redux: A Conversation between Alexander Freund and Erin Jessee.” Using Freund’s recent OHR article “‘Confessing Animals’: Towards a Longue Durée History of the Oral History Interview” as a starting point, we discuss the challenges of adapting oral historical practices in different settings and in the face of growing popular and professional interest in “storytelling,” broadly defined.