Human rights "in the making": on restitution, expertise and devices for denunciation
Location 112a
Date and Start Time 01 September, 2016 at 09:00
Sessions 2


  • Lindsay Smith (University of New Mexico) email
  • Oriana Bernasconi (Universidad Alberto Hurtado) email
  • Fredy Mora-Gamez (University of Leicester) email

Mail All Convenors

Chair Fredy Mora-Gámez
Discussant Oriana Bernasconi

Short Abstract

The panel explores the role of expertise and technical devices participating in institutional responses to collective violence. We open up rights restitution "in the making" to gain a better understanding of these controversial dynamics considering particular issues of power, knowledge and truth.

Long Abstract

Restitution of human rights in situations of violence is approached as a set of institutional decisions that recognize different forms of perpetration. Such affectations generally occur under dictatorships, armed conflicts, wars, genocides, and other forms of politically motivated violence. The administrative act of recognizing the vulnerability of human rights is generally accompanied by the acknowledgement of responsibilities, compensations, asylum, medical care, psychosocial assistance, humanitarian aids, creation of memorials and museums, among other actions traditionally included in the repertoire of reparation; this acknowledgement also differentiates between victims and perpetrators

Following Foucault, Deleuze and Agamben, among others, we use the term devices to address a heterogeneous network of elements inscribed in relations of power and sustaining a variety of types of knowledge including discourses, institutions, regulations, laws, rationales, among other elements. Such devices can be empirically reconstructed by examining the role of different discourses, technologies and forms of expertise in the classification and processing of those atrocities. Thus, it becomes crucial to study the relations around files, interview guidelines, administrative forms, checklists, forensic evidence, legal instruments, assistance protocols, databases and documented proofs. This panel seeks contributions addressing the emergent uses and effects of such devices and forms of expertise in the evaluation and assistance of people affected by forced migration, forced disappearance, imprisonment, exile, exoneration, relegation, torture, anti-person mines, assassinations, among other forms of violence.

We welcome reflections on the potential role of STS in approaching rights restitution research, as well as theoretical, methodological, and ethical insights in studying this field

This track is closed to new paper proposals.


Memory and Scientific Knowledge Production: Chilean Forensic Identification in the Aftermath of the Pinochet Dictatorship

Author: Eden Medina (Indiana University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper focuses on the identification of skeletons exhumed from the General Cemetery in Santiago where the Chilean military buried bodies anonymously during the Pinochet dictatorship. The paper explores how memory of human rights violations shapes the perceived legitimacy of scientific work.

Long Abstract

In the 1990s, the Chilean government formed a team of forensic scientists to identify the bodies of those the military killed and buried anonymously during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990). This paper focuses on the 126 skeletons exhumed from one burial site—Patio 29—a lot in the General Cemetery in Santiago where the military buried hundreds of bodies in graves marked N.N. (nomen nescio). Chilean forensic scientists working in the Medical-Legal Institute were able to identify 96 of the skeletons exhumed and provide family members with a sense of closure. However, scientific certainty soon became government error. In 2006, the Chilean government announced that at least 48 of the 96 skeletons had been misidentified. Much of the blame for these errors fell on the shoulders of the female scientists who had conducted the identifications. Critics said the women had been too close to the families of the disappeared to make objective identifications and that their political commitment to finding and identifying the disappeared had caused them to reach beyond the limits of their scientific capability. This paper will explore how the scientists' proximity to memories of Chile's human rights violations shaped the perceived legitimacy of their scientific work; stemmed from the historical context in which the work took place; and formed part of Chile's transition to democracy. The paper will draw from interviews, press accounts, and archival documents.

Scientists enforced disappearances at the CNEA during the last military-civilian dictatorship in Argentina, 1976-1983.

Authors: Paula Erica Matuz (Universidad de Buenos aires)  email
Irene Veronica Beyreuther (Universidad de Buenos Aires)  email

Short Abstract

Analysys of the enforced disappearances of scientists at the Nuclear Energy National Committee (CNEA) during the last military-civilian dictatorship in Argentina 1976 - 1983. Despite the strategic relevance this institution gained during this period, it didn´t remain aside from State Terrorism.

Long Abstract

Among the several negative consequences caused by the last military-civilian dictatorship, which took place in Argentina from 1976 to 1983, we attempt in this paper to aim those related to workplace conditions emerged within Science and Technology institutions.

In addition, the Atomic Energy National Committee (CNEA) represents for many reasons a paradigmatic example. In the first place, since its creation in 1950, it had gained an unquestionable strategic relevance. Secondly, after the coup d'état in 1976, military personnel were in charge of the major positions at the CNEA. Thirdly, during the mentioned period scientists enforced disappearances took place. It is important, then, to inquire about violence at CNEA workplace during this period, specially, introducing analytical categories from an Interdisciplinary Field such as Science, Technology and Society studies (STS). From this interesting conceptual approach, scientist is described as a Science worker, which lead us to analyze the Lab as a labour environment in which labour relations develop, and labour violence can occur as it happened at CNEA workplace during the military administration (1976-1983).

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State terrorism in Chile: the devices of registration and denunciation of the Disappeared Detainee

Author: Oriana Bernasconi (Universidad Alberto Hurtado)  email

Short Abstract

Through archival research and interviews with the workers of the Chilean NGOs that assisted victims of State terrorism I analyze the device of registration and denunciation of political violence in the case of people’s force detention and disappearance

Long Abstract

The Chilean military dictatorship (1973-1990) deployed a policy of systematic violation of human rights of thousand of people allegedly enemies or threat to the newly established regime. To confront State terrorism part of the civil society formed organizations like the Committee for Peace, the Vicariate of Solidarity, the Defence Committee for the Rights of the People or the Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees.

Without previous expertise on this kind of atrocities, these organizations set in place an interdisciplinary system of attention, assistance and denunciation lead by social workers, attorneys, physicians and psychologists. A series of infrastructural technologies and instruments support their work: judicial actions; psychological, forensic and social protocols and procedures; classifications and taxonomies; individual folders, forms, statistics, databases and reports. These NGOs records have not only had an indisputable role in the figuration of political violence and its resistance during the dictatorship, but have been a key source of information for Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and judicial processes until this day.

This paper addresses these technologies in the arrangement of disputing discourses, forms of expertise, and games of knowledge, power and truth, in which they are inscribed. In short, and following Deleuze, Foucault and Agamben it examines devices of registration and denunciation of political violence. Based on documentary research on these NGOs archives and individual and collective interviews with their workers, it analyses the role of the devices of a particular repressive strategy: people's force detention and disappearance. Issues of objectivity, existence restoration, subjectification and truth are discussed.

Classifying pain, recognizing victims: towards an ethnographic critique of the process of victim´s registration in post-TRC Peru

Author: Laura Tejero (Complutense University of Madrid)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing from extensive fieldwork, this paper will critical examine the encounters that take place between the victim and the expert in the context of implementation of the Integral Reparation Program in post-conflict Peru.

Long Abstract

To aim of this paper is to contribute to the analysis of the way in which victimhood is constructed (and de-constructed) in post-conflict Peru as a result of the institutionalization of the field of transitional justice since the public presentation of the Final Report of the TRC in 2003. Drawing from extensive fieldwork, it will critical examine the encounters that take place between the victim and the expert, grasping the tensions and contradictions at work in the implementation process of the Integral Reparations Program (PIR). What is needed to become a certified victim and a legitimate beneficiary of reparations in post-conflict Peru?

Experts All the Way Down: Dewey, Latour and Everyday Peace Indicators

Author: Pol Bargues-Pedreny (Institute for Development and Peace (INEF))  email

Short Abstract

This article examines the shifting understanding of the role of international experts: from privileged wise people that knew more than anyone to actants that face the unknown, measure the incalculable

Long Abstract

This article examines the shifting understanding of the role of international experts in providing peacebuilding and development assistance. For the past twenty years, commentators have criticised the unjustified privileges of international experts as well as the frameworks, tools and technocratic procedures they use. For example, these have employed external templates to measure economic progress, pursued the creation of rational and efficient institutions and have focused on reductionist representations of societies. The result has been, the critics contend, in rarely successful peace and development processes, often ruinous for the majority of societies intervened upon. While some critics have claimed the need to remove experts from countries affected by collective violence, the general assumption is that international support is needed. But experts must adopt a different role.

Drawing on John Dewey's pragmatism and the work of the late Bruno Latour, this article examines how the role of expertise is being redefined. Experts can no longer be the omnipresent Gods who knew more than the rest about negotiations and conflict resolutions. Instead, they shall admit how difficult it is to advice, to lead, to predict or to comprehend, and naturally continue with their unlimited duties. Today experts have to calculate the incalculable, measure what they do not know and deal with the consequences of their actions before they are called, for a lack of a better work, 'experts'. This paper reflects on this new understanding of expertise, examining the recently introduced everyday peace indicators programmes.

Rights restitution in post-conflict Colombia: on recognition as sociotechnical border

Author: Fredy Mora-Gamez (University of Leicester)  email

Short Abstract

This paper interrogates the role of technologies (such as forms and protocols) within rights restitution as a sociotechnical arrangement enacting official recognition and post-conflict statehood.

Long Abstract

This paper traces the trajectories of the Formato Unico de Declaracion (FUD), the official form currently used for registering and recognizing claimants as Victims of the armed conflict in Colombia. Along such trajectories, I am interested in actors whose experiences are shaped by the FUD, and how it is used to produce official numbers and narratives of rights restitution and post-conflict. Moving across assistance centers, governmental offices, and places where registered and rejected claimants live, work, and protest, this study revisits rights restitution as a sociotechnical border: an arrangement comprised of claimants, expert functionaries, forms, databases, and official numbers enacting boundaries of official recognition. This paper is part of an ethnography that examines three synchronic and deeply interwoven spaces: recognition, reparation, and alternative organisation. A description of these relations is briefly outlined.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.