Healing wounds, working together: archaeologists and social anthropologists in the study of traumatic events of the past
Aitzpea Leizaola (University of the Basque Country)
Arch & Anth M1
Start time:
9 April, 2009 at 9:30 (UTC+0)
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Traumatic events from contemporary history have challenged the long term breach between social anthropology and archaeology. All over the world the exhumation of mass graves has become a common ground for archaeologists and social anthropologists, in a task linked with the defence of human rights.

Long abstract:

Traumatic events from contemporary history have unexpectedly challenged the long term breach between social anthropology and archaeology. In this sense, exhumations of mass graves have opened a common ground archaeologists and social anthropologists share with forensic anthropologists.

Opened up following the demands of relatives, human rights movements, national or international commissions such as the Commissions for Truth, Reparation and Justice, these exhumation processes raise questions about the relationship between these disciplines and their respective tasks, purposes and positions, concerning methodological, ethical and theoretical issues.

In the last decades, archaeologists and forensic anthropologists have collaborated with human rights organizations, putting their scientific knowledge to their service. Social anthropologists have later joined them, collecting evidences and/or working on sensitive issues such as the construction and transmission of collective memory and the political implications involved. However, the gap between disciplines is not always easy to bridge. Finding physical evidences is not always possible; furthermore it is sometimes not considered the only legitimate action.

This panel aims to raise theoretical and ethnographical issues related to the practice of each discipline in such emotionally charged and politically relevant contexts. We thus invite contributions drawn from fieldworks in which archaeologists, social anthropologists and forensic anthropologists work together, such as those on systematic disappearings carried out during dictatorships (as in the cases of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay for example) as well as mass executions and other forms of repression happened in war contexts (such as the the Spanish Civil War, Rwanda or the Balkans).