Chapter 21 - Abstract and author bios

21.Bones, Documents and DNA: Cultural Property at the Margins of the Law

Lee Douglas

This chapter and the accompanying photographs consider how objects and forms of knowledge that exist at the margins of the law are mobilized to make claims and produce forms of cultural value in contemporary Spain. By examining mass grave exhumation projects where tangible and intangible objects—like human remains, documents, testimonies, and DNA—are recovered and deployed to produce alternative forms of historical knowledge, I consider how cultural property frameworks can be useful for unpacking how claims are asserted through unruly bodies of evidence that do not fit neatly within the boundaries of legal procedure.

Lee Douglas is a doctoral candidate in Sociocultural Anthropology and a graduate of the Culture and Media Program at New York University. She holds an MSc in Visual Anthropology from the University of Oxford. Her research focuses on the intersection of forensic science, archival practice, and photographic documentation during the excavation of mass graves and the identification of remains in post-Franco Spain. Paying close attention to engagements with forensic evidence, her research considers what the entanglement between science, documentary practice, and visual representation reveals about the production and mobilization of knowledge in times of economic austerity and political change.