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Missing persons' families: experiences and knowledge, circulation of persons and things, and solidarity after Mass Fatality Incidents

Project description

An ethnographic study of the ICMP’s work

Every year, millions of people around the world go missing as a result of conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organised crime, irregular migration, and other causes. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) works with governments, civil society organisations and other groups throughout the world to address the issue of people who have gone missing. It has been involved in the excavation of thousands of mass and clandestine gravesites and has spearheaded the application of advanced forensic techniques to locate and recover missing persons. The EU-funded MissingFamilies project will conduct an ethnographic study of the ICMP’s work. It will study its civil society initiatives at its Hague headquarters and in Mexico, Colombia and Iraq. The focus will be on the ‘circulation’ of local experiences, knowledges and solidarity.

Objective

If people go missing, their families are left with big questions about someone’s status as being dead or alive. While families of missing persons are dependent on forensic experts and expertise to have their kin identified after mass fatality incidents (MFIs) like war or political violence, forensic experts cannot do their job without support of families. However, due to technical, political or financial constraints, forensic experts and their services often are unavailable in the wake of MFIs. In such circumstances, civil society organizations like family associations become advocates for forensic interventions or initiate forensic activities themselves. While local experience and knowledge are highly relevant for the global problem of missing persons, those experiences hardly flow from the local to elsewhere, including the global. In the proposed project MissingFamilies, I ethnographically attend to the work of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in The Hague by studying ICMP’s civil society initiatives at its Hague headquarters and in Mexico, Colombia and Iraq. Attending to civil society programs and stakeholders in the three mentioned countries, I focus on the “circulation” of local experiences, knowledges and solidarity to elsewhere, including the global. Seeking inspiration from Science and Technology Studies, and actor-network theory in particular, MissingFamilies contributes to empirical understanding of the global problem of missing persons and their surviving families; it adds new theoretical and conceptual vocabulary to the materialities of absence and presence; it furthers the notions of circulation and solidarity in the wake of MFIs; and provides opportunities to improve future MFI operations.

Coordinator

UNIVERSITEIT VAN AMSTERDAM
Net EU contribution
€ 187 572,48
Address
SPUI 21
1012WX Amsterdam
Netherlands

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Region
West-Nederland Noord-Holland Groot-Amsterdam
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Total cost
€ 187 572,48