By Dorothée Delacroix, Camille Noûs
Taking as its object the opening of mass graves from the internal conflict in Peru and the Franco regime in Spain, this article examines the threefold challenge associated with the recovery of human remains: they are simultaneously the object of political claims, the cornerstone of an affective economy, and the centerpiece of a probative economy. The fieldwork carried out in the Peruvian Andes and the Spanish community of Navarre shows that, beyond the objective of restoring dignity to the dead and their relatives, contemporary exhumations also question the identity of the bodies recovered—sometimes informally—twenty to forty years ago. Places of remembrance, maintained for many decades by families who believed that their loved ones were buried there, are thus opened and “verified” using new techniques based in particular on DNA analysis. This article discusses the impact of this test of truth on the intimate relationship with a missing family member, on the political positions adopted by different groups and individuals, and on their relationship to citizenship itself in this new bio-scientific paradigm.