Archive: March, 2015



New Web Publication: Among the Anonymous Dead

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 14.23.06Following 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.

 

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