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Publications [#351478] of Diane M. Nelson

Papers Published

  1. Nelson, DM. "Bonesetting: the algebra of genocide." Journal of Genocide Research 18:2-3 (July, 2016): 171-187. [doi]

    Genocide rulings should not care about numbers. Legally, proving the intent to destroy a people in whole or in part is what counts. Yet numbers are vital actants in the often decades-long lead-up to trials. Aggregate numbers give weight to the specificity of individual testimony, statistical estimates can transform missing people into cold, hard facts, and algorithms can reveal ‘excess death’, even when forensic anthropologists cannot find all the bones. And because of this power, numbers are highly contested in both truth commission findings and trials like that of Generals Ríos Montt and Rodríguez Sánchez. In this article I analyse the disentangling work of statisticians and anthropologists in exhuming and counting bodies, and how particular numbers (200,000; 1,771; ninety-three per cent) are made, then re-entangled in efforts to count. The modern ideal of a universal subject of rationality and abstraction that positions women and natives as those who cannot count contributed to their historic exclusion and dehumanization. Counting, as in adding things up, is part of the historic achievement of the trial to make Maya-Ixil women and men count, in the sense of to matter.

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