Title

Civic Engagement with the Dead: Notes on Theory and Practice in a Forensic Key

Document Type

Journal Article

Role

Author

Journal Title

The Applied Anthropologist

Volume

37

Issue

1

First Page

4

Last Page

8

Publication Date

2017

Abstract

Educators and researchers who study human rights face a climate that is often hostile to “theory,” whether due to market forces impacting higher education or a political climate (at least in the United States) that seems to demand urgent action over contemplation. Based on reflections from classroom teaching and longstanding research into the scientific investigations of mass graves after atrocity, this essay acknowledges the entrenchment of the theory/ practice divide within what Charli Carpenter calls “the human rights network,” despite important forms of interdependence between spheres of academia and advocacy. It argues that bridging the theory/practice divide productively requires more than the familiar conference panels and dialogues between scholars and practioners. Using the example of Philadelphia’s Mount Moriah Cemetery, it points to overlooked sites where new forms of engagement are possible: across the divide that separates theory from practice, and also the living from the dead.