Expanded Forensics and Evolving Evidence: Holocaust Truths in Ashes, Texts and Bones

Paper presented by Francisco Ferrandiz (CSIC, Madrid), Alejandro Baer (U.Minnesota) and Natan Sznaider (Academic College of Tel Aviv Jaffo) at the 115th meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Minneapolis.

The advent of forensic discourses and practices for the search for truth in human rights violations and its increasing prestige in popularity has created a new corpocentric epistemology in which the human body has become a crucial agent in the (re)interpretation of violent pasts. In this process, alternative and previously dominant ways of knowing are losing preeminence and give way to forensic protocols and reports, DNA technologies, and other technocratic processes. This has already been characterized as part of a broader forensic or even genetic turn. In this paper, coauthored with Natan Sznaider (Tel Aviv Academic College), we attempt to expand the notion of forensics and challenge commonsensical notions of evidence by comparing different evidentiary regimes of ashes, texts and bones in relation to the Holocaust. Ashes signify the stubborn resistance of corpses to the attempt to throw them into oblivion. The burial and exhumation of texts buried in ghettos testify to the reality of a vanished presence. The recent advent of the Archaeology of the Holocaust and its associated mass graves adds a new twist to the epistemological debates on the physical evidences of the Holocaust. Constituted by the current forensic turn and human remains as major evidence of atrocity, this technique has been confronted by Jewish sacred law, which resists the manipulation of already buried bodies challenging the primacy of historical truth over other regimes of justification. Analyzing these three different forms of materiality, our paper explores crucial transformations in the epistemological status of evidence of the Holocaust.

Panel on: FOSTERING CROSS SUB-DISCIPLINARY CONVERSATION ON THE POLITICS OF FORENSIC PRACTICES. Thursday, November 17, 2016 1:45 PM – 3:30 PM Room 200. Minneapolis Convention Center.


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