Multimedia Coverage of Collective Reburials in post-Genocide and Mass-Violence Contexts
In his seminal article “From Tear to Pixel, Political Correctness and Digital Emotions in the Exhumations of Mass Graves from the Civil War” published in 2016, Spanish social anthropologist Francisco Ferrándiz has shown how the exhumations of victims of mass violence were subject to extensive sound and visual recordings that were immediately disseminated and worldwide broadcasted through traditional and digital media. This immediate and global digitalization of a collective experience is affecting the short and long-term construction of social memory in contemporary societies affected by mass violence, “accelerating the memory-construction process and projecting it into the global arena”. Collective re-burials frequently organized as a follow-up of the exhumations carried-out in post-mass violence settings are subject to similar intense coverage and global broadcasting. This panel (set up in the frame of the comparative research program Transfunerary https://funeraire.hypotheses.org/) aims at questioning the specificities and consequences of the reburial’s massive media coverage. What role do these funerary records play in the various resilience processes of post-conflict societies? What types of images and imagery are produced, shaped and put into circulation? What echoes do these images provoke in social life? These questions will be addressed on the basis of several fieldworks carried out by social anthropologists and psychologists in Europe and Latin America.
Presentations of the Symposium
Reality check. The media coverages of Great Purges victim’s reburial in nowadays post-soviet Russia and their effect.
Historians now agree on the fact that approximatively 700 000 soviet citizens were murdered during the period of the great purges in the second half of the 1930ies. The soviet State policy of dead-bodies concealment combined with further post-soviet State policy of disinterest if not denialism of the crimes committed under the Stalinist regime, has led to a very limited number of exhumations of the great purges victims. Focusing on a series of annual mass graves opening and victims’ reburials, undertaken since the end of the 1990ies at a local level in the Voronezh region (500km south-east from Moscow), this paper aims at enlightening what is at stake in their local and national media coverage during the celebrations of the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repressions (30rd of October), and the way in which these recurrent audio-visual short narratives contribute to counteract victim’s identity erasure at a more global level.
Visual recordings and media coverage of controversial collective burials of the Peruvian internal armed conflict.
Visual recordings of the collective burials following the exhumations of victims of mass violence in Perú have played a key role in the publicization, recognition and legitimization of the families looking for their disappeared loved ones, in the aftermath of the internal armed conflict. However, when the media coverage concerns collective burials that do not meet the expected norms of the “innocent victim”, it might also lead to the opposite result: disproval of the presence in public space of such manifestations and refusal to consider some of the dead as victims of State mass violence. We will focus on the circulation of images of a collective senderista burial linked to a prison massacre, and question how visual recordings and their diffusion in the media and social networks contributed to create a massive moral panic about the “terrorist” ceremonies and rejection of the mausoleum of senderist ex-activists. The displacement of the dozens of corpses and the subsequent destruction of the mausoleum has been captured live and simultaneously broadcasted on television. We will question how the diffusion of these images shapes, performs and illustrates the difficulties of post-conflict elaboration of a renewed citizenship contract and the building of a more inclusive nationhood.
The “Memoria Virtual” in Guatemala. The use of images to build and to disseminate the memory of victims
In the aftermath of the genocidal violence against indigenous population in Guatemala, the publication and diffusion of images continue to prove its importance in the process of establishing the truth about the massacres. The exhumations and re-inhumations of victims of the conflict, carried out since the 1990s, are particularly fertile ground for the production of impactful and telling images. As today’s democratic State still doesn’t take charge of the victims’ compensation nor recognition, the memory work is carried out by NGOs and civil society organizations. Pictures of the exhumated victims, of the forensic work and of the disappeared have been made visible in the public space by various methods for many years, however the development of digital media has led actors to increasingly invest in this space. Through the example of the digital project “Memoria virtual”, I will show I will show how a memory of the violence in Guatemala is collectively elaborated and shared, focusing on the contributions of the forensic teams FAFG and CAFCA.
The corporeality of the dead in the public arena: An analysis of two cases in the contexts of the Malvinas War victims in Argentina and the detained-disappeared in Chile.
In this paper I will show how the publication on social networks of exhumed bodies’ photographs, in the context of restitutions, have different impacts on family members in two different cases: one is the exhumations of remains of the Malvinas War victims, and the second is the restitution of a body of a detainee disappeared during the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile. We will try to see how the different repercussions of the diffusion of the images not only have to do with the characteristics related to the socio-historical context and the cause of the death in each case, but also with the position of the relatives at the moment of diffusion regarding the rites of passage and their confrontation with death.
Looking at the exhumation: ethical reflections on the image, privacy and about looking at the exhumations of Bojayá (Colombia)
This paper analyzes some ethical and political dimensions involved in the registration and large broadcasting of photographic images of the exhumation process carried out in Bojayá (in the Chocó Department, 379km from Bogota in Colombia) in 2017, 15 years after a massacre that left 119 victims. The long-lasting forensic procedure ended in 2019 with the identification, restitution and delivery of the remains to the victim’s families. The presentation delves into the debates generated around the presence of journalists and photographers at the initial 2017 exhumation, and analyzes the tensions around the public uses of testimony and images, the tensions with the community of survivors and journalists around the photographic record and the representations that were derived from the act of restitution and delivery of 2019.