The Reemergence of the Disappeared, the Role of Remains, and the ‘Forensic Gaze’

Research output: Contribution to journalSpecial issue


This paper explores what happens when the disappeared, reappear; considering how efforts to discovery and identify physical bodies are received, and what impact they have in exorcising the ghosts of the past. It discusses, following Gatti, the range of “catastrophes” that disappearance provokes, suggesting that reappearance, whether of living persons or human remains, can also lead to catastrophe. The piece argues that ‘civic management’ of disappearance creates a problematic new form of ‘citizenship’, paradoxically conferring special status that those disappeared were rarely afforded prior to their disappearance. Drawing on examples from Latin America and Northern Ireland, the piece considers how bodies without identities, like names without known destinies, disrupt social life, make claims on the living, and/or accuse perpetrators. It considers how forensic ‘truth regimes’ based on Western scientific principles sit alongside other ways of communing with the dead or disappeared.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMemory Studies
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2020


  • forensics
  • disappearance
  • Latin America
  • transitional justice

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