The missing, the martyred and the disappeared: Global networks, technical intensification and the end of human rights genetics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

In 1984, a group of Argentine students, trained by US academics, formed the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team to apply the latest scientific techniques to the excavation of mass graves and identification of the dead, and to work toward transitional justice. This inaugurated a new era in global forensic science, as groups of scientists in the Global South worked outside of and often against local governments to document war crimes in post-conflict settings. After 2001, however, with the inauguration of the war on terror following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, global forensic science was again remade through US and European investment to increase preparedness in the face of potential terrorist attacks. In this paper, I trace this shift from human rights to humanitarian forensics through a focus on three moments in the history of post-conflict identification science. Through a close attention to the material semiotic networks of forensic science in post-conflict settings, I examine the shifting ground between non-governmental human rights forensics and an emerging security- and disaster-focused identification grounded in global law enforcement. I argue that these transformations are aligned with a scientific shift towards mechanized, routinized, and corporate-owned DNA identification and a legal privileging of the right to truth circumscribed by narrow articulations of kinship and the body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)398-416
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Studies of Science
Volume47
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

human rights
science
war crime
law enforcement
kinship
world trade
semiotics
anthropology
disaster
terrorism
Group
justice
Human Rights
history
Forensic Science
student
Attack

Keywords

  • forensic DNA
  • human rights
  • Latin America
  • security

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

Cite this

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abstract = "In 1984, a group of Argentine students, trained by US academics, formed the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team to apply the latest scientific techniques to the excavation of mass graves and identification of the dead, and to work toward transitional justice. This inaugurated a new era in global forensic science, as groups of scientists in the Global South worked outside of and often against local governments to document war crimes in post-conflict settings. After 2001, however, with the inauguration of the war on terror following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, global forensic science was again remade through US and European investment to increase preparedness in the face of potential terrorist attacks. In this paper, I trace this shift from human rights to humanitarian forensics through a focus on three moments in the history of post-conflict identification science. Through a close attention to the material semiotic networks of forensic science in post-conflict settings, I examine the shifting ground between non-governmental human rights forensics and an emerging security- and disaster-focused identification grounded in global law enforcement. I argue that these transformations are aligned with a scientific shift towards mechanized, routinized, and corporate-owned DNA identification and a legal privileging of the right to truth circumscribed by narrow articulations of kinship and the body.",
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