Documenting Violence

"Seeing the Disappeared" - Oct. 11-12, 2016

Kent State University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Geography, Department of Anthropology, the School of Peace and Conflict Studies, and the Institute for the Study and Prevention of Violence will present “Documenting Violence: Seeing the Disappeared” from 7-9 p.m. on October 11th and 12th in the University Auditorium in Cartwright Hall on the Kent Campus.  Research on violence in Guatemala, the former Yugoslavia, and the U.S., including the events of September 11, 2001, will be presented.  The event is free and open to the public.

Full Schedule:

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

University Auditorium in Cartwright Hall, Kent Campus

7:00 - 9:00pm

  • Dr. Catherine Nolin, associate professor and chair of the Department of Geography at the University of Northern British Columbia, will discuss her work on past and present state sponsored violence in Guatemala.  Her 20 years of research has covered issues of femicide, indigenous land rights, migration, and human rights. Her research focuses on gendered and racialized experiences created by past and contemporary, state sponsored and developmental political violence in Guatemala.  Her work applies a social justice framework for examining post-genocide memory, the search for the ‘disappeared’, femicide, violence related to resource extraction, and the role of indigenous consultation in Guatemalan Maya communities.  Her critical approach also examines the transnational solidarities of forced, temporary, and permanent migrations of Guatemalans to Canada. 
  • Award-winning documentary photographer James Rodríguez (B.A. Geography, UCLA) will profile his documentation of uncovering mass graves, the forensics of identification, and the burial customs that reunite the ‘disappeared’ with family in post war Guatemala.  His evocative photos will be on exhibit in Cartwright Hall, outside the auditorium on Tuesday from 3pm-11pm and Wednesday 10am-11pmBased in Antigua, Guatemala and raised in Mexico City and Los Angeles, he has worked as a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyst in Los Angeles, a language teacher in Japan, and a human rights observer in Guatemala. His website,, contains photo essays and archive photographs focusing on the social conflicts caused by resource extraction, land tenure disputes, post-war processes, and human rights abuses, in Guatemala and Latin America.  He has documented the uncovering of the ‘disappeared’ through his photography of mass graves and burials in Guatemala, and the forensic analysis of the FAFG.   His work has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Toronto Star, National, among others.  His solo and joint photography exhibits have been featured throughout the world, including events sponsored by Amnesty International and Oxfam America.
    • About his photo exhibit: 

      The brutal Guatemala civil war (1960-1996) left over 250,000 civilian victims. Thousands were forcibly disappeared, their corpses never found. Thanks to numerous exhumations and DNA analysis, the war victims are finally being identified and properly buried. This process has marked the beginning of an extraordinary healing process in both rural and urban families.

      Yet for some, it goes beyond finding and burying a family member, as it is also evidence of heinous crimes committed during the war. On May 10, 2013, former de facto head of state Efrain Rios Montt, who ruled from 1982 to 1983, was convicted of Genocide and crimes against humanity. Even though the conviction was overturned shortly after due to a technicality, it marks the first time in world history a former head of state is tried for genocide in a national court. Currently, eight former high-ranking officers await trial for the largest case of mass disappearance in the history of Latin America after 533 corpses were exhumed in 2012 from mass graves in a former military installation.

      The unforeseen and unpredictable shifts within the Guatemalan justice system, propelled by an UN-led anti-corruption coalition force that has empowered the district attorneys office, have shaken up the power structures and allowed for judicial processes that were thought to be impossible. The struggle for justice and social cohesion after the brutal crimes carried out by the State against the Guatemalan people during the war will undoubtedly take generations to heal. But at least some families can finally find closure in burying their loved ones after decades of uncertainty and hope that justice is carried out against the intellectual perpetrators.
  • A discussion and reception will follow

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

University Auditorium in Cartwright Hall, Kent Campus

7:00 - 9:00pm

  • Dr. Zoran Budimlija, head of the Laboratory for Surgical Pathology, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, University of Pennsylvania, will speak about the identification of victims in mass graves from the war in the former Yugoslavia as well as his role as a team leader of the 9-11 World Trade Center Human Identification Project while working in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in New York City. He is a forensic pathologist and forensic DNA specialist from the Republic of Serbia. From 1992 to 2001 he was an instructor at the University of Novi Sad School of Medicine and a designated forensic pathologist in the identification of victims of the Yugoslav Wars. Between 2014 and 2016 he was a member of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, working on the identification of individuals in mass graves.  
  • Dr. Anthony Tosi, assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Kent State University, will talk about his specialized forensic ‘Touch-DNA’ analysis of homicides in New York City. His work involves forensic genetics and primate evolution. He previously worked at the Office of Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) in New York City in the low-copy DNA (“Touch DNA”) group. He is one of only 25 people in the United States specifically trained to interpret low-copy DNA results and has testified to homicides in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.  He has held postdoctoral positions at Kyoto University, Japan, and New York University, USA.  He is presently working with Dr. Linda Spurlock to develop a new Minor in Forensic Anthropology at Kent State University. 
  • Dr. Linda Spurlockassistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Kent State University, will present her work on 2-D and 3-D facial reconstructions, and postmortem sketches of unidentified crime victims. As a forensic facial reconstruction artist she assists coroner’s and medical examiner’s offices throughout northeast Ohio. She is also a biological anthropologist for the Ohio Mortuary Operational Response Team (OMORT).
  • A discussion and reception will follow