Footprints of war: the meaning of artefacts and personal effects from mass graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Paper short abstract:
To examine the claims that are placed on the objects excavated from mass graves in BiH, claims made by family members, judiciary and the society as a whole and it will show that persons and objects excavated are not disparate in significance but that their symbolic importance is intertwined.
Paper long abstract:
With a landscape of once clandestine, now marked and, in many cases, excavated gravesites, postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) still bears the scars of a war almost twenty years past. A war with over 100.000 casualties and around 31.500 persons missing, mostly as a result of mass executions and burials in mass graves across the country and its neighbours. Excavations are part of BiH's slow, at times painful and contentious, path toward reckoning with that past, as missing persons represent objects of care for seemingly disparate spheres of scientific, religious, political and social activity. But it is not those that are excavated that are powerful symbols alone, the material objects that are excavated with them also hold scientific, religious, political and social importance. This paper will outline the legal prescriptions for these objects, and it will examine the claims that are placed on the objects excavated from mass graves in BiH, claims made by family members, judiciary and law agencies and the society as a whole. It will show that these objects, even today, play an important role in lives of people in BiH. This paper will also explain these claims through examination of the reaction to the revelation that the ICTY destroyed some 1.000 objects collected from excavation sites for 'sanitary' purposes. This, at least locally, prompted outrage and discussion about the significance an importance of these artefacts and their place in BiH today. This paper will show that persons and objects excavated are not disparate in significance but that their symbolic importance is intertwined and equally powerful.
Death and technology