Accepted Papers:

The exhumation sites of Spanish Civil War mass graves: new grounds for interdisciplinary work  


Aitzpea Leizaola (University of the Basque Country)

Paper Short Abstract:

Traumatic events from contemporary history have unexpectedly challenged the long term breach between social anthropology and archaeology. Exhumations of mass graves of the Spanish Civil War have opened a common ground for archaeologists and social anthropologists.

Paper long abstract:

Since 2000 archaeologists and forensic anthropologists in Spain have been working on the localisation and opening of mass gravesat the request of descendants of people killed during the Spanish Civil War or Franco's dictatorship. The work of these professionals has been essential to bring to light the scope of Francoist repression. It has helped to ground a discourse on what has been called the Memoria Histórica - referring to the memory of the repression during the War and its aftermath. Social anthropologists have later joined them professionals in this task, collecting evidences and/or working on sensitive issues such as the construction and transmission of collective memories and the impact of such processes in contemporary politics.

However, the gap between disciplines is not always easy to bridge. Finding physical evidences is not always possible. At some point, the exhumation itself can become the target of bitter and highly emotional debates. Thus, exhumations raise questions about the relationship between these disciplines and their respective tasks, purposes and positions, including methodological, ethical and theoretical issues. Whereas the task of archaeologists and forensic anthropologists is socially well known and accepted, the role of social anthropologists is not so clearly cut.

Drawing from fieldwork carried out in several exhumation sites of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War, this paper aims to focus on the way this collaboration is considered by professionals from both disciplines.

panel P37
Healing wounds, working together: archaeologists and social anthropologists in the study of traumatic events of the past