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Srebrenica’s Legacies of Loss and Remembrance
November 5, 2013 @ 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm
The Holocaust Memorial Lecture is an annual event that is administered by the University’s Assembly Series. Held on or near November 9th, the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms in Nazi Germany, the Lecture aims not only to commemorate the Holocaust but also to address its broader implications for other instances of systematic persecution, mass murder, and genocide. Prof. Wagner’s talk will address the war in Bosnia, an event that has profound local relevance.
Almost twenty years have passed since the fall of the UN “safe area” of Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which led to the worst atrocity to occur in Europe since World War II. Despite the presence of Dutch peacekeepers, the Army of Republika Srpska seized the enclave in July 1995 and killed over 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys, dumping their bodies in mass graves and later robbing those sites to hid the traces of the crimes. In doing so, the perpetrators created a vast network of primary and secondary mass graves filled with commingled and often incomplete remains, a forensic nightmare for those who sought to recover and identify the Srebrenica victims. That scientific effort represents a critical intervention into the legacies of loss and destruction that the genocide has visited upon its survivors, especially the families of the missing. In confronting the absence of mortal remains and seeking to fill gaps in knowledge, the work of identifying Srebrenica’s missing has helped give rise to an extraordinary site: the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery, the epicenter of the genocide’s commemoration and the place where families, neighbors, and friends, torn asunder by the violence and dispersed across the globe, reassemble to carry out the rites of sanctified burial. To date, 6,066 individuals have been identified through the DNA-led forensic efforts and their remains interred in the collective cemetery.
Sarah Wagner is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University and author of To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing (University of California Press, 2008), and co-author with Lara Nettelfield of Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocide (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Prof. Wagner’s talk will be followed by a roundtable discussion with local experts from WU and the larger St. Louis community.