Technologies of the Afterlife

The Agency of the Dead at Spanish Mass Grave Exhumations

in Anthropological Journal of European Cultures

In August 2011, I attended the exhumation of Severiano Clemente González, conducted by the Forum for Memory in the Castilian town of La Toba, Guadalajara. Mr González was one of the over 130,000 civilian victims of the 1936–1939 Spanish Civil War and ensuing Franco dictatorship (1939–1975). Even after Spain’s democratic constitution in 1978, most families could not recover their loved ones, owing to an unofficial ‘Pact of Silence’ whereby major political actors agreed not to legislate, litigate or discuss the still controversial past in the public sphere (Encarnación 2014). Since 2000, however, civil society organisations such as the Forum for Memory and the Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) have been leading a series of forensic exhumations – modelled after similar state-led interventions in Latin America, Southern and Eastern Europe (Ferrándiz 2010; Rubin 2014).