Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Fellow

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Stanford University
Blood and Bone: Kinship, Science and the Imagined Body in "Humanitarian Exhumations" of the Dead

Exhumation of the dead has become a normative human rights intervention and a requisite aspect of transitional justice. In the wake of political violence, exhumation aims to provide judicial evidence of mass atrocity and to return human remains to families. Understood as bringing closure to families, "humanitarian exhumation" may be carried out even in situations in which there is little or no hope of judicial recourse. Yet, the relationship between forensics teams and families has proven to be complex and often fraught. While some exhumations have received clear support from families, others have been sites of intense controversy. This project asks why there has been persistent tension between families of the missing and forensic teams. Attentive to the polysemy of the dead body, which at different times and places can be understood to be judicial evidence, a medical specimen, a scientific object, a political symbol, a religious relic, a site of the uncanny, a social subject, a dense site of mourning and more, this project explores what humanitarian exhumation means to those most intimately involved: forensic teams and families of the missing. Based in Argentina, location of the earliest and longest continuously excavated humanitarian exhumations, this project takes the complex relationship between families and forensic teams as a generative site to explore how we conceptualize exhumations as "humanitarian," how we expect science to serve social ends and how we imagine relationships of care between the living and the dead.