Monday, March 30, 2009

Applying Forensic Anthropology in Guatemala

The AAA Committee for Human Rights has written to Guatemalan authorities on numerous occasions regarding the safety of the Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Team (FAFG), especially its director Fredy Peccerelli who, along with his family, has been the target of several death threats. FAFG exhumes mass graves in an effort to identify massacre victims of Guatemala's 36-year insurgency, during which an estimated 200,000 people were killed and numerous human rights violations occurred. Fredy and the rest of FAFG are hoping to compile enough evidence to identify and prosecute the perpetrators of these massacres. You can read the full story from Scientific American here. And a related story on FAFG's most recent efforts.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

CFP: "Health and the Productivity of Human Rights Discourses"

Call for Papers
Title: Health and the Productivity of Human Rights Discourses

Co-sponsor: Committee for Human Rights, American Anthropological Association

This panel brings together ethnographic and theoretical papers to examine the productivity of human rights discourse in the fields of public health, medicine, and anthropology. In our contemporary world, a discourse of health as a human right has played a central role in configuring humanitarian responses to disasters, economic inequality and poverty, and the differential burden of disease. It has also raised methodological, conceptual, and ethical challenges in the field of medical anthropology. We are interested in bringing together critical ethnographic examinations of the mobilization of human rights discourse in informing claims to health by communities, populations, and the state, as well as reflections on how human rights discourse has informed the knowledge and concepts of health and well-being in anthropology. In keeping with the theme of the AAA meetings, we hope to foster discussion about anthropology’s “ends”: how can anthropological modes of knowing inform and help shape responses to global differentials in well-being, health, and life chances that are lived and experienced locally? What critical reflections from the field of health can be brought to bear on the discourse of cultural relativism in anthropology, and what alternative frameworks might we generate from these reflections?

By focusing on the productivity of human rights discourse, this panel is particularly interested in the new directions, methods, and concepts that can inform and challenge discursive understandings of health, knowledge, and values. Such new directions may include exploring the instabilities of a language of rights in advancing claims to health, and how local concepts of health and well-being are conditioned by often invisible institutional failures as well as economic insecurity and emergent value systems. How are humanitarian interventions and large-scale public health initiatives informed by regimes of value? How are discourses of human rights enacted by the local to advance claims to health from the state, and how are subjects constituted through this discourse? In examining such interventions and claims predicated on “health as a human right”, what local and trans-local concepts of the human emerge? Refracting such questions back on our own discipline, this panel explores how the language of rights has informed our field’s knowledge production on health, our ethnographic engagements, and our stakes in normative projects.

Organizers: Clara Han and Robin Root

Please send a 250-word abstract to Robin Root ( and Clara Han ( by March 26.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Awa Indians Murdered

CNN reported that guerrilla troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have killed at least 10 more Awa Indians this week, bringing the total to 27 in the last two weeks. FARC targeted the Awa after accusing them of aiding the Colombian government. Earlier this week, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called the FARC “executioners.” He demonized their bloody action against the indigenous tribe and has ordered his army into the remote areas where the killings took place in order to secure the territory and administer humanitarian aid.

~Author: Leo Napper, AAA intern