At the Foot of the Grave: How Human Rights Workers Use Forensic Science to Challenge the Dominant Narrative of Violence in Post-Franco Spain

Wednesday, July 12, 2017
JWS - Room J10 (J355) (University of Glasgow)
Nicole Iturriaga , Sociology, University California Los Angeles
This paper, based off of 12 months of participant oberservations and a mix of informal and formal interviews, argues that one of the most important social movement tactics of the Spanish historical memory movement is the teaching of “classes” by forensics oriented human rights workers during mass grave exhumations. These classes reframe the story of the violence of the Spanish Civil War and the corresponding Franco repression through a lens of forensic science. Human rights workers, by using this tactic, are transformed away from being partisan activists and into legitimate story tellers grounded in the ideals of modernism, science, and international protocols, even when their message has an inherently political argument. This tactic should not be undervalued, even though the impact is located at the micro-interactional level, because it successfully: breaks the repressive silence that has pervaded all levels of Spanish society since the end of the war; reframes the victims as actual victims of unjustified state terror; illuminates the failures of the 1977 Spanish democractic transition; and like other forms of testimony, places the responsibility for the search for justice onto the witnesses listening.
  • Working Draft Iturriaga June 2017.docx (782.2 kB)