“Here everything is possible”: forensic specialists' work with human remains in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina

Szkil, Andrea Michelle (2013) “Here everything is possible”: forensic specialists' work with human remains in post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the work carried out by forensic specialists employed by the
International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP). Headquartered in Sarajevo, Bosnia
and Herzegovina (BiH), ICMP assists the work of local governments around the world in
addressing the issue of missing persons following armed conflict, atrocities, and natural
disasters. This thesis focuses on ICMP’s efforts to aid the Bosnian government in locating,
exhuming, and identifying the remains of the individuals who went missing during the
country’s recent war (1992-1995). Utilising data obtained via interviews with and
observations of ICMP staff members, it primarily represents a study of the management of
professional identity in emotionally charged situations, examining the experiences of the
forensic specialists who work in the organisation’s three mortuary facilities throughout
BiH. It explores forensic specialists’ work with human remains, their interactions with
victims’ family members, and their attendance at events in which victims are
commemorated and/or buried. Discussion of forensic specialists’ experiences with the
deceased brings into consideration their varying responses to the remains, emphasising the
prevalence and perceived importance of emotional detachment. Situations in which
emotional detachment from the remains may prove challenging are considered, as are the
varying techniques forensic specialists utilise in managing emotional responses to their
work. Examination of forensic specialists’ interactions with the living suggests their
general dislike of these encounters, although the positive aspects of these interactions are
also examined. Exploration of forensic specialists’ opinions of attending burials and/or
commemorations brings into further consideration the balance between emotional
attachment and detachment. While respondents noted the importance of maintaining an
emotional connection to their work, they nevertheless emphasised the importance of
avoiding such responses while in the mortuary. Commemorations and/or burials become
‘safe spaces’ for forensic specialists to express and experience emotional responses to their work that are not overtly professional.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > Anthropology
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DR History of Balkan Peninsula > DR1202 Yugoslavia > DR1350 Local history and description > DR1652 Bosnia and Hercegovina
J Political Science > JZ International relations > JZ6385 The armed conflict. War and order
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1001 Forensic medicine. Medical jurisprudence. Legal medicine
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2013 14:23
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 14:21
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/45169

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