Forensic Anthropology: Whose Rules Are We Playing by?—Contextualizing the Role of Forensic Protocols in Human Rights Investigations

  • Tim Thompson
  • Daniel Jiménez Gaytan
  • Shakira Bedoya Sánchez
  • Ariana Ninel Pleitez Quiñónez
Part of the St Antony's Series book series (STANTS)


Forensic anthropology has an important contribution to make to the investigation of human rights violations, yet the globalization of forensic practice raises complex issues. For example, forensic protocols imported from the US (and European) traditions have been modified due to the different cultural, economic and scientific realities of the region of application. Whereas the American tradition is limited to the physical analysis of skeletal remains, elsewhere, forensic investigations include the intertwining of four disciplines: social anthropology, forensic archaeology, forensic anthropology and forensic genetics. This challenges the forms of standardization and regimes of knowledge production which invariably affect the way in which forensic evidence is both assessed and constituted as evidence. Despite the prominence of South American anthropological investigations, such traditions have not been as successful at crossing over to Europe. This chapter explores the notion that scientific experts must mediate between globally circulating ideas and their local appropriation, which includes the negotiation and contestation of institutional interests that lie behind the importation or exportation of ‘scientific’ models.


Forensic anthropology Human rights Scientific protocols Excavations Mass violence 

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tim Thompson
    • 1
  • Daniel Jiménez Gaytan
    • 2
  • Shakira Bedoya Sánchez
    • 3
  • Ariana Ninel Pleitez Quiñónez
    • 4
  1. 1.Teesside UniversityMiddlesbroughUK
  2. 2.Forensic Anthropology Section, National Institute of Forensic Science of Guatemala (INACIF)San Carlos UniversityGuatemala CityGuatemala
  3. 3.Max Planck Institute for Social AnthropologyHalleGermany
  4. 4.European Association of Social Anthropology and the Interdisciplinary Network of Studies on Latin American MemorySan SalvadorEl Salvador

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