Author:Finn Stepputat (Danish institute for international studies (DIIS))
Paper short abstract:
This paper analyses how civil and military, local, national and international perspectives and interests meet in the performance of a crime scene investigation of an unidentified, dead guerrilla fighter towards the end of the Guatemalan civil war
Paper long abstract:
Rather than analysing a case of a missing person from the point of view of the relatives left behind, this paper looks into an extended encounter with the unidentified body of an (assumed) guerrilla-fighter who was shot dead by the army in 1995, towards the end of the 30 years long civil war in Guatemala. The paper gives an ethnographic account of the encounter in which local, civilian authorities negotiate their way through the formal 'crime scene investigation' in the presence of military officers, international human rights observers and local onlookers. The analysis traces the diverse perspectives and interests that permeate the performance of this state ritual, which achieves its particular significance due to the context of ongoing peace negotiations and the attempt to demonstrate the end of a non-declared state-of-exception. The suggestion that the management of dead bodies is intimately associated with performative claims to sovereignty (Stepputat 2014) will function as a theoretical backdrop to the analysis of the CSI.
Missing persons, unidentified bodies: addressing absences and negotiating identifications