Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Anthropology, Columbia University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Columbia University
The Bodies and the Archive: Bureaucratization of Violence and Communal Exhumation in Mexico

This research project examines tensions between the state's unwillingness to investigate violent death in Mexico, and families' collective response to this by taking on the care of the dead and their own search for the disappeared. A crisis over legitimate authority has emerged alongside longstanding processes of bureaucratization of violence, affecting the production and circulation of forensic evidence, turning mass graves and bureaucratic spaces into sites of contention. In the aftermath of Ayotzinapa—a major national crisis which detonated after 43 students were forcibly disappeared by police—the surrounding countryside was found to be saturated with mass graves, and a crisis of sovereignty emerged around found bodily remains. No longer waiting for authorities to act, brigades of families of disappeared people across the country have begun to symbolically and materially enact attributes of the state, launching their own searches and forensic investigations—encountering the very authorities they contest at mass gravesites and in bureaucratic spaces. This project asks: What does it mean to find a murdered body in Mexico today? What does it mean for it to become evidence? Who holds and contests authority over this process? Building on interdisciplinary scholarship on bureaucracy and forensic evidence, I examine the currently existing regime of justice and its evidentiary practices, interrogating how bodies in the ground are translated into terms legible to the law, and how their existence as evidence is transferred to archives. The project thus investigates social processes of public truth production by bringing into conversation forensic and humanitarian exhumations, alongside recent critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on bureaucracy, sovereignty, and violence, to address how dead bodies become evidence and how truth claims circulate around and through them.