Stanford University - Spring 2020 - Wednesday 1:30 PM-4:20 PM
ARCHLGY 137, ARCHLGY 237, ANTHRO 137D, DLCL 237, REES 237 [3, 4, 5 units]

First class: Wednesday, April 8, 1:30 PM, ZOOM meeting

Ewa Domanska


The course discusses the politics and practices of exhumation of individual and (especially) mass graves and the figurations of the exhumed subject(s). The problem of exhumations will be considered as a distinct socio-political phenomenon characteristic of contemporary times and related to transitional justice. Political exhumations serve as a way of working through the painful past and building a new historical narrative that take into account the silent stories of the victims often used as tools of memory politics. Analysis of specific relationships between humans remains, soil and politics uncover hidden agendas of the work of power (necropolitics). The course will offer analysis of case studies of political exhumations of victims of the Dirty War in Argentina, ethnic cleansing in former Yugoslavia, the Holocaust, communist state violence in Poland and other Soviet satellite states, the Rwandan genocide, and the Spanish Civil War. Seminar discussions will also focus on the problems of political, social, ethical and religious overtones that are associated with political exhumations. Special attention will be devoted to the practices of carrying out exhumations (searching for graves, digging up corpses, analysis of remains, identification and re-burials). Theories and new approaches in genocide research, mass graves research, such as environmental history of the mass graves, and dead body studies will be highlighted.

The course will be of interest to students in the humanities and social sciences as well as law and forensic sciences. It is offered as both an independent colloquium and/or a research seminar designed to help students work on papers, theses and individual projects. It will stress an awareness of how to draw on and combine new approaches and theories for analyzing students’ own research materials. It advocates a bottom-up approach to theory building thus it also teach students how to formulate their own interpretative categories and small range theories based on case study analysis.



The course is open for undergraduate as well as for graduate students. Following Stanford University's decision, the course will be graded on a satisfactory/no-credit (S/NC) basis.



  • Human Remains and Mass Violence. Methodological Approaches, edited by Jean-Marc Dreyfus & Élisabeth Anstett. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014.
  • Human Remains and Identification: Mass Violence, Genocide and the ‘Forensic Turn’, edited by Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015
  • Necropolitics. Mass Graves and Exhumations in the Age of Human Rights, edited by Francisco J. Ferrándiz and Antonius C. G. M. Robben. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
  • Katherine Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies. Reburial and Postsocialist Change. New York: Colombia University Press, 1999.



  • Milica Tomić, “I am Milica Tomić" (1999)
  • "The Silence of Others" (El silencio de otros), dir. Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar (2018)
  • "Katyn," dir. Andrzej Wajda (2007)
  • "Son of Saul” (Saul fia), dir. László Nemes (2015) 
  • "The Killing Fields", dir. Roland Joffe (1984)
  • "Imagining Argentina," dir. Christopher Hampton (2003)
  • "The Memory of the Bones" (La memoria de los huesos), dir. Facundo Beraudi (2016)
  • "Hotel Rwanda," dir. Terry George (2004)
  • "Birds Are Singing in Kigali" (Ptaki spiewaja w Kigali), dir. Joanna Kos-Krauze, Krzysztof Krauze (2017)



April 8
1. Introduction

Claudia Bernardi, “The Disappeared Are Appearing: Murals that Recover Communal Memory.” International Journal of Transitional Justice, vol. 14, no. 1, March 2020: 193–208.

Research Assignment 1: Carefully study and analyze the mural. Turned represented humans, animals, plants, objects and symbols into concepts. List at least 15 concepts. Using free online word cloud generator, create the "mass graves" word cloud. Using different font’s sizes and shapes try to show hierarchy and relations between various terms.


April 15
2. Human Remains as Heritage

Christopher Frerking, Heather Gill-Frerking, “Human Remains as Heritage: Categorisation, Legislation and Protection.” Art, Antiquity & Law, vol. 22, no. 1, 2017: 49–73.

Finn Stepputat, Governing the Dead? Theoretical Approaches, in: Governing the Dead. Sovereignty and the Politics of Dead Bodies, edited by Finn Stepputat. Menchester: Menchester University Press, 2020: 11-32.

Thomas W. Laqueur, "The Dead Body and Human Rights," in The Body, edited by Sean T. Sweeney and Ian Hodder. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002: 75-93.

Antoon De Baets, “A Declaration of the Responsibilities of Present Generations Toward Past Generations.” History and Theory, Theme Issue 43, December 2004: 130-164.

Additional Readings:

  • Rachel Carmen Ceasar, “Kinship Across Conflict: Family Blood, Political Bones, and Exhumation in Contemporary Spain.” Social Dynamics, vol. 42, no. 2, 2016: 352-369.
  • Nicky Rousseau, Riedwaan Moosage & Ciraj Rassool, “Missing and Missed: Rehumanisation, the Nation and Missing-ness.” Kronos, vol. 44, no. 1, 2018: 10-32.
  • Destruction and Human Remains: Disposal and Concealment in Genocide and Mass Violence, edited by Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2014.
  • Cara Krmpotich, Joost Fontein, John Harries, “The Substance of Bones: The Emotive Materiality and Affective Presence of Human Remains.” Journal of Material Culture, vol. 15, no. 4, 2010: 371–384.

Research Assignment 2: Read a chosen article from listed above, cite a sentence that looks like an aphorism and reflect on the relations between human remains and heritage. Propose your own interpretation of an idea of “human remains as heritage” (500 words).


April 22
3. Exhumation Movement as a Phenomenon of Contemporary Times

Katherine Verdery, Dead Bodies Animate the Study of Politics, in: her, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies. Reburial and Postsocialist Change. New York: Colombia University Press, 1999: 23-53.

Yehonatan Alsheh, The Biopolitics of Corpses of Mass Violence and Genocide, in: Human Remains and Mass Violence. Methodological Approaches, edited by Jean-Marc Dreyfus & Élisabeth Anstett. Manchester: Manchester University Press 2014: 12-43.

Francisco Ferrándiz and Antonius C. G. M. Robben, Introduction: The Ethnography of Exhumations, in: Necropolitics. Mass Graves and Exhumations in the Age of Human Rights, edited by Francisco J. Ferrándiz and Antonius C. G. M. Robben. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015: 1-38.

Additional Readings:

  • Francisco Ferrándiz, Marije Hristova, Mass Grave Exhumation Sites as Agonistic Fora: A Comparative Study of Spain, Poland and Bosnia, in: Repensar el pasado: La memoria (trans)cultural Europea, edited by Johanna Vollmeyer and Marta Fernández Bueno. Madrid: Dykinson, 2019: 1-20 (forthcoming).
  • Berber Bevernage and Lore Colaert, “History from the Grave? Politics of Time in Spanish Mass Grave Exhumations.” Memory Studies, vol. 7, no. 4, 2014: 440–456. 

Research Assignment 3: Write a short position paper and argue for pro or con political exhumation. Refer to examples indicated in readings (500 words).


April 29
4. Forensic Turn

Clyde Collins Snow, Foreword, in: Forensic Archaeology: A Global Perspective, edited by W. J. Mike Groen, Nicholas Márquez-Grant, Rob Janaway. Wiley-Blackwell, 2015: xxvii-xxxiii.

Eyal Weizman, Introduction. Forensis, in: Forensis. The Architecture of Public Truth, ed. by Forensic Architecture with contributions by Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Nabil Ahmed, et al. Berlin: Sternberg Press and Forensic Architecture, 2014: 9-32.

Claire Moon, Interpreters of the Dead: Forensic Knowledge, Human Remains and the Politics of the Past. Social & Legal Studies, vol. 22, no. 2, 2013: 149–169.

Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus, Introduction: Why Exhume? Why Identify?, in: Human Remains and Identification: Mass Violence, Genocide and the ”Forensic Turn”, edited by Élisabeth Anstett, Jean-Marc Dreyfus. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015: 1-13.

Additional Readings:

  • Mapping the ‘Forensic Turn’: Engagements with Materialities of Mass Death in Holocaust Studies and Beyond, edited by Zuzanna Dziuban. Vienna: New Academic Press, 2017.
  • Paul Lowe, Traces of Traces: Time, Space, Objects, and the Forensic Turn in Photography. Humanities 2018, vol. 7, no. 76, 2018: 1-18.
  • Zoë Crossland, “Evidential Regimes of Forensic Archaeology.” Annual Review of Anthropology vol. 42, 2013: 121-137.
  • Johanne Helbo Bøndergaard, Forensic Memory. Literature after Testimony. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

Research Assignment 4: Create a research poster that focusses on the problem of exhumations, forensics and human rights. Identify 3 core concepts (and related to the course topics). Define each of them in approximately 100 words and include in the poster.


May 6
5. Exhumations, Humans Rights and Transitional Justice  

Roxana Ferllini, “The Development of Human Rights Investigations since 1945.” Science and Justice, vol. 43, 2003: 219–224.

George Kasapas, “An Introduction to the Concept of Transitional Justice: Western Balkans and EU Conditionality.” UNISCI Discussion Papers, Nº 18 (Octubre / October 2008).

Michael Humphrey and Estela Valverde, Disappearance, Exhumation and Reburial: The Historical Recovery of Victims in Post-Cold War Argentina and Spain, in: Seeking Meaning, Seeking Justice in a Post-Cold War World, edited by Judith Keene and Elizabeth Rechniewski. Leiden, Boston: Brill 2018: 183–209.

Adam Rosenblatt, The Politics of Grief, in: his, Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science After Atrocity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015: 83-122.

Additional Readings:

  • Susana Navarro-García, Pau Pérez-Sales, Alberto Fernández-Liria, “Exhumations in Latin America: Current Status and Pending Challenges: A Psychosocial View.” Peace & Conflict Review, vol. 4, no. 2, 2010: 1-18.
  • Sarah E. Wagner, To Know Where He Lies​: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebenica’s Missing. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008.
  • Clea Koff, The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist's Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo. New York: Random House, 2005.
  • Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror, edited by Jeffrey A. Sluka. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000.

Research Assignment 5: The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the Helsinki Commission, on January 25, 1993 heard testimony on war crimes in the civil war between independent republics of the former Yugoslavia. The witnesses, representatives of human rights organizations, discussed the current situation in Bosnia and Eastern Europe. Watch the recording of the meeting, concentrate on Eric Stover’s testimony (47:28-1:03:37 and 1:35:00-1:36:55) that concerned a forensic analysis of the mass grave in Vukovar. List the most important issues of Stover’s testimony and comment on using empirical research methods (mass grave excavation in Vukovar) to address emerging issues in human rights (500 words).


May 13
6. What Is a Mass Grave?

Élisabeth Anstett, What Is a Mass Grave? Toward an Anthropology of Human Remains Treatment in Contemporary Contexts of Mass Violence, in: A Companion to the Anthropology of Death, edited by Antonius C. G. M. Robben. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2018: 177-188.

Rachel E. Cyr, “Testifying Absence in the Era of Forensic Testimony.” International Journal of Politics, Culture & Society, vol. 26, no. 1, March 2013: 93-106.

Arturo Aguirre and Oscar Romero Castro Moses, "Violence Exposed, Philosophical Considerations on the Phenomenon of the Mass Grave.” ESPACIO I+D, Innovación más Desarrollo, vol. 4, no. 9, October 2015: 76-99.

Hugh H. Tuller, Mass Graves and Human Rights: Latest Developments, Methods, and Lessons Learned, in: A Companion to Forensic Anthropology, edited by Dennis C. Dirkmaat. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012: 157-174.

Erin Jessee, Mark Skinner, “A Typology of Mass Grave and Mass Grave-Related Sites.” Forensic Science International, vol. 152, no. 1, 2005: 55-59.

Additional Readings:

  • William D. Haglund, Melissa Connor and Douglas D. Scott, “The Archaeology of Contemporary Mass Graves.” Historical Archaeology, vol. 35, no. 1, 2001: 57-69.
  • Richard Wright, Ian Hanson and Jon Sterenberg, The Archaeology of Mass Graves, in: Forensic Archaeology. Advances in Theory and Practice, edited by Margaret Cox, John Hunter. London: Routledge, 2006: 137-158.
  • Slobodan Mitrović, Fresh Scars on the Body of Archaeology: Excavating Mass-Graves in Batajnica, Serbia, in: Past Bodies: Body-Centered Research in Archaeology, edited by Dušan Borić and John Robb. Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2008: 79-88.
  • Hugh Tuller and Marija Ðurić, “Keeping the Pieces Together: Comparison of Mass Grave Exhumation Methodology.” Forensic Science International, vol. 156, 2006: 192–200.
  • Ewa Domańska, “The Environmental History of Mass Graves,” trans. Paul Vickers and Eliza Rose. Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 2, no. 2, 2020 [online first].
  • Melanie Klinkner, “Towards Mass-Grave Protection Guidelines.” Human Remains and Violence, vol. 3, no. 1, 2017: 52–70.
  • William D. Haglund, Recent Mass Graves. An Introduction, in: Advances in Forensic Taphonomy: Method, Theory, and Archaeological Perspectives, edited by William D. Haglund and Marcella Sorg. Boca Raton, London, New York, Washington, D.C.: CRC Press, 2002: 244-259.
  • Graham Denyer Willis, “The Potter's Field.” Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 60, no. 3, July 2018: 539-568.
  • Maurice Blanchot, "The Image, the Remains" and "The Cadaverous Resemblance", in his, Space of Literature, trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln, London: University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

Research Assignment 6: Watch "Mass Graves," a poem by Denver slam poets (video below) and reflect on the presence of mass graves in the contemporary world. When analyzing the poem propose a definition of the mass grave (500 words).


May 20
7. Underground Subjects: Exhumans / subterrados / Humans as Taphonomic Agents

Francisco Ferrándiz, Afterlives: A Social Autopsy of Mass Grave Exhumations in Spain, in: Legacies of Violence in Contemporary Spain. Exhuming the Past, Understanding the Present, edited by Ofelia Ferrán, Lisa Hilbink. New York: Routledge 2017: 24-43.

Godofredo Pereira, “Ex-Humus: Collective Politics from Below.” Dispatches Journal, no. 001, February 15, 2019.

Taphonomy of Human Remains. Forensic Analysis of the Dead and the Depositional Environment, edited by Eline M.J. Schotsmans, Nicholas Márquez-Grant, Shari L. Forbes. Chichester, West Sussex; Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2017 (chap. 11, 12 and 18, p. 145-166; 251-276).

Christopher J. Knüsel and John Robb, “Funerary Taphonomy: An Overview of Goals and Methods.” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 10, 2016: 655–673.

Additional Readings:

  • Advances in Forensic Taphonomy: Method, Theory, and Archaeological Perspectives, edited by William D. Haglund, Marcella H. Sorg. CRC Press, 2002.
  • Sarah Wagner, Social Complexity of Commingled Research, in: Commingled Human Remains. Methods in Recovery, Analysis, and Identification, edited by Bradley J. Adams and John E. Byrd. Academic Press, 2014: 491-506.
  • Zoe Crossland, “Of Clues and Signs: The Dead Body and its Evidential Traces.” American Anthropologist, vol. 111, no. 1, 2009: 69–80.

Research Assignment 7: Create a painting, drawing or cartoon that pictures an idea of "commingling" (an impossibility to distinguish mixed elements of various origins). Reflect on your work (500 words).


May 27
8. Holocaust Archaeologies
(special guest: Caroline Sturdy Colls)

Caroline Sturdy Colls, Holocaust Archaeologies. Approaches and Future Directions. New York: Springer, 2015 (fragments).

Caroline Sturdy Colls, “Holocaust Archaeology: Archaeological Approaches to Landscapes of Nazi Genocide and Persecution.” Journal of Conflict Archaeology, vol. 7, no. 2, 2012: 70-104.

Isaac Gilead, Yoram Haimi, and Wojciech Mazurek, “Excavating Nazi Extermination Centres.” Present Pasts, vol. 1, 2009: 10-39.

David Deutsch, “Exhumations in Post-War Rabbinical Responses,” in: Human Remains in Society. Curation and Exhibition in the Aftermath of Genocide and Mass-Violence, ed. Jean-Marc Dreyfus and Élisabeth Anstett. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016: 90–112.

Additional Readings:

  • Caroline Sturdy Colls, "Uncovering a Painful Past: Archaeology and the Holocaust." Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites, vol. 17, no. 1, 2015: 38-55.
  • Michael Schudrich, Jewish Law and Exhumation, in: Killing Sites. Research and Remembrance, ed. by International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Berlin: Metropol Verlag, 2015: 79-84.
  • Adam Rosenblatt, Forensics of the Sacred, in: his, Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science After Atrocity. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015: 125-152.
  • Małgorzata Wosińska, “Murambi is Not Auschwitz: The Holocaust in Representations of the Rwandan Genocide,” in: Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the Commemoration of Atrocities, ed. by Mischa Gabowitsch. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan Palgrave, 2017: 187-208.

Research Assignment 8: Using poem generator software, create a short poem that includes the words decomposition and dehumanization (or create a found poem - that is a poem created using only words, phrases, or quotations that have been selected and rearranged from another text - preferably chosen by a student witness testimony or assigned above readings).


June 3
9. The Exhumed Objects, Material Witness, Holographic Witness and EcoWitness

Sophie Baby, François-Xavier Nérard, “Objects from the Missing. Exhumations and Uses of the Material Traces of Mass Violence,” trans. Clare Ferguson, in: Material Traces of Mass Death: The Exhumed Object, special issue. Les Cahiers Sirice, vol. 19, no. 2, 2017: 5-20. 

Laurie Beth Clark, Mnemonic Objects: Forensic and Rhetorical Practices in Memorial Culture, in: Memory and Postwar Memorials. Confronting the Violence of the Past, edited by Marc Silberman and Florence Vatan. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013: 155-173.

Susan Schuppli, Material Witness: Media, Forensics, Evidence. MIT Press, 2020 (parts: 1, 8, 9, 12).

Jacek Małczyński, „Trees as ‘Living Monuments’ at the Museum-Memorial Site at Bełżec,” trans. Aleksandra Wnuk, in: Memory of the Shoah. Cultural Representations and Commemorative Practices, edited by Tomasz Majewski, Anna Zeidler-Janiszewska, and Maja Wójcik. Łódź: Officyna, 2010: 35–41.

Caccianiga Marco, Bottacin Stefania, Cattaneo Cristina, "Vegetation Dynamics as a Tool for Detecting Clandestine Graves." Journal of Forensic Sciences, vol. 75, no. 4, 2012: 983–988.

Additional Readings:

  • Admir Jugo, „Artefacts and Personal Effects from Mass Graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Symbols of Persons, Forensic Evidence or Public Relics?”, Les Cahiers Sirice, vol. 19, no. 2, 2017: 21-40. 
  • Gilly Carr, “The Small Things of Life and Death: An Exploration of Value and Meaning of Nazi Camps,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology, special issue, The Material Culture of Nazi Camps, published online: 27 July 2017.
  • François-Xavier Nérard, “Of Time and Things: Uses of Objects from Soviet Mass Graves.” Les Cahiers Sirice, vol. 2, no. 19, 2017: 77-92.

Research Assignment 9: Make a “forensic photo” of an (organic or non-organic) object. Explore its evidential value and reflect on it (500 words).


June 10
10. The Ethics of Exhumations

Alfredo González-Ruibal, “Ethics of Archaeology.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 47, 2018: 345-360.

Erin D. Williams, John D. Crews, From Dust to Dust: Ethical and Practical Issues Involved in the Location, Exhumation, and Identification of Bodies from Mass Graves. Croatian Medical Journal, vol. 44, no. 3, 2003: 251-258.

Liv Nilsson Stutz, Contested Burials, in: The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of Death and Burial, edited by Liv Nilsson Stutz and Sarah Tarlow. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018: 801-816.

Additional Readings:

  • Ethical Approaches to Human Remains. A Global Challenge in Bioarchaeology and Forensic Anthropology, edited by Kirsty Squires, David Errickson, Nicholas Márquez-Grant. Springer 2019.
  • Ahmed Al-Dawoody, "Respect for the Dead under Islamic Law: Considerations for Humanitarian Forensics,” November