The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)

The bioanthropological role in investigations of genocide


Anthropology, University of Tennessee Knoxville

April 18, 2020 , Diamond 8-9 Add to calendar

Biological anthropology’s role in investigations of human rights violations and mass atrocities has been evolving since the 1980s yet guidelines are lacking as to the types of data that should be collected and for what outcome. One of the main goals of these investigations is to support the trials of mass atrocity perpetrators, amongst other important post-conflict concerns. However, human rights violations, war crimes, and genocide are often conflated even though each crime carries different legal underpinnings. Similarly, there are few parameters to guide the biological anthropologist as to the type of data that should be collected in order to serve as evidence of these different types of crimes. Neither are there sufficient guidelines for the type of bioanthropological data that can be indicative of the two constituent features of genocide: the physical act and the requisite intent to destroy a group. This study -- building upon the work by Komar (2008) and Munoz & Congram (2016) amongst others -- seeks to understand the contributions that biological anthropology can make to investigations of genocide specifically by (1) reviewing convicted cases of genocide that have been supported by anthropological data and (2) providing a list of the types of bioanthropological data that should be collected within this particular type of mass atrocity context. As such, this study examines the bioanthropological role in investigations of genocide and serves as a starting point for future work examining the role of biological anthropology in a variety of mass atrocity scenarios.