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Interpreters of the dead: forensic knowledge, human remains, and the politics of the past

Moon, Claire (2013) Interpreters of the dead: forensic knowledge, human remains, and the politics of the past. Social and Legal Studies, 22 (2). pp. 149-169. ISSN 0964-6639

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0964663912463724


Forensic anthropology makes particular professional claims – scientific, probative, humanitarian, historical, political and deterrent – which attempt to finalise interpretations of the past. However, I argue that these claims conceal a range of contests and conflicts around the social, political, legal and scientific significance of human remains. I look at the ways in which forensic work is embedded within a network of artefacts, actors and institutions that have different stakes in the interpretation of the past. I analyse conflicts over human remains by positing them as ‘boundary objects’ with agency Institutional ecology, ‘translations’ and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology 1907-39. Social Studies of Science 19(3): 387–420), in which a number of communities are invested and show how forensic knowledge does not finalise, but interacts with social, political and historical interpretations of past violence in ways that are both conflicted and unpredictable.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2013 The Author
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JX International law
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2013 09:55
Last Modified: 20 May 2020 02:39

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