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From Mass Graves to Mass Disasters


for Members

From Mass Graves to Mass Disasters

Monday, January 31, 2011

Wenner-Gren Foundation, 470 Park Avenue South, 8th Fl

Presented By

Presented by the Anthropology Section


This presentation explores the contextual, theoretical and practical challenges of forensic anthropology in three different contexts – local case work, national and international mass disasters, and international human rights investigations. Forensic anthropologists typically serve as consultants to local medical examiners and coroners, forensic pathologists, law enforcement and attorneys to address questions related to personal identity and trauma of skeletonized or incomplete human remains. An increasing number of forensic anthropologists also apply their expertise beyond local casework. Forensic anthropological skills are highly valued in mass disaster situations, including transportation accidents as well as terrorist acts, such as those of September 11, 2001. Forensic anthropologists also form an integral component of international teams who investigate human rights atrocities around the world. This work was formally initiated in 1984 by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team (EAAF). Forensic anthropologists and archaeologists locate, recover and identify bodies from mass graves and provide an objective analysis of the circumstances of death. One problem is that U.S.-based methods and standards of forensic practice do not always easily transfer to global contexts. However, human rights work affords much room for theoretical considerations, including the meaning of identity in the context of genocide and the political and social meanings of missing and dead bodies. Local case studies, the World Trade Center disaster and aviation accidents, and ongoing human rights work in Spain will illustrate the concepts and challenges discussed.


Dawnie Wolfe Steadman

Binghamton University, State University of New York


Zoe Crossland

Columbia University

A reception will precede the meeting at 6:00 pm