Last Rights: Forensic Science, Human Rights, and the Victims of Atrocity


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships


Modern Thought and Literature


“Last Rights” is a political, historical, and philosophical study of the international teams of forensic scientists that investigate mass graves after human rights violations, collecting evidence for war crimes tribunals and identifying the dead. It focuses on the complex political landscape in which these investigations take place, where tribunals, mourners, and transitional governments all claim a stake in exhumations. Analyzing the ethical dialogue among forensic experts and other stakeholders, it finds that mass grave exhumations have produced unique and transformative uses of the human rights framework to address this complexity. Dead bodies, however, have remained “silent stakeholders” in the forensic dialogue. The dissertation thus argues for the ethical significance of violated bodies that are now identified and repatriated to their mourners.