Event Title

Panel III: “Bones, buttons and photographs: objects for remembrance in the exhumation of mass graves of the Spanish Civil War”

Abstract

In 2000, the exhumation of mass graves of people executed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) opened up an interesting debate in Spain on the memory of the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, bringing to the public arena questions that had been silenced for over seventy years. The debate over the convenience of opening up the graves or leaving them as they are for future generations to remember what happened is still open, underlining the existence of different points of view over the role of sites as places of remembrance. Exhumations constitute a unique moment to observe debates over the appropriate forms of remembrance in action. The materiality of corpses, together with personal items found in these graves have a strong impact on all those attending the exhumation, from archaeologists to families and members of the associations working for what has been called the “recovery of historic memory.” Ordinary objects, such as buttons, shoes, pencils or glasses found in mass graves acquire thus a huge importance: they may be central for the identification of the bodies and/or they may become the very materialization of remembrance in the hands of the families. Drawing from a four year fieldwork conducted in different exhumations all through Spain, this paper intends to explore the links between memory and material culture, focusing on the objects found in mass graves of the civil war as well as on different artifacts (photographs, documents, flags, flowers) brought to the exhumations.

Presenter Bio(s)

Aitzpea Leizaola, University of the Basque Country, is currently working on an ethnographic study of the exhumation of mass graves dating from the Spanish Civil War. She has been a part of the technical team of experts of the Sociedad Aranzadi that has carried out exhumations, conducting interviews with descendants and scientists involved in the excavations.

Location

Mount Holyoke College, Mary Woolley Hall, New York Room

Start Date

14-10-2011 4:30 PM

End Date

14-10-2011 5:15 PM



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Oct 14th, 4:30 PM Oct 14th, 5:15 PM

Panel III: “Bones, buttons and photographs: objects for remembrance in the exhumation of mass graves of the Spanish Civil War”

Mount Holyoke College, Mary Woolley Hall, New York Room

In 2000, the exhumation of mass graves of people executed during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) opened up an interesting debate in Spain on the memory of the Civil War and Franco’s dictatorship, bringing to the public arena questions that had been silenced for over seventy years. The debate over the convenience of opening up the graves or leaving them as they are for future generations to remember what happened is still open, underlining the existence of different points of view over the role of sites as places of remembrance. Exhumations constitute a unique moment to observe debates over the appropriate forms of remembrance in action. The materiality of corpses, together with personal items found in these graves have a strong impact on all those attending the exhumation, from archaeologists to families and members of the associations working for what has been called the “recovery of historic memory.” Ordinary objects, such as buttons, shoes, pencils or glasses found in mass graves acquire thus a huge importance: they may be central for the identification of the bodies and/or they may become the very materialization of remembrance in the hands of the families. Drawing from a four year fieldwork conducted in different exhumations all through Spain, this paper intends to explore the links between memory and material culture, focusing on the objects found in mass graves of the civil war as well as on different artifacts (photographs, documents, flags, flowers) brought to the exhumations.