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Necroheritage: Mass Graves and Exhumations in Poland

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The talk will address the phenomenon of mass graves and political exhumations as markers of the contemporary human condition. Commingled remains constitute a specific figuration of exhumed bodies, manifesting not only victims dismembered by extreme cruelty but also a ruined social, political, and religious order. The talk explores the exhumations of human remains and artifacts from the graves in Katyń (where, in 1940, a large number of Polish officers were executed by the Soviet secret service, NKVD) and Jedwabne (stemming from the Jedwabne pogrom—a massacre of Polish Jews in the town of Jedwabne in 1941). It reflects on how exhumed remains and objects were treated, preserved, and displayed, with a focus on the historical, legal, spiritual/religious, and ethical aspects related to the respect for the remains and artifacts and the memory of the deceased.

Ewa Domańska is professor of human sciences and holds a permanent position at the Faculty of History, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland. She is a corresponding member of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAS), a visiting professor in the Department of History and affiliated faculty of CREEES at Stanford. Her teaching and research interests include comparative theory of human and social sciences, theory and history of historiography, as well as genocide and ecocide studies. She is a co-author of the “Environmental History of the Holocaust,” theme issue, eds. Ewa Domańska and Jacek Małczyński, Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 22, no. 2, 2020 and a co-editor of “Knowledge in the Shadow of Catastrophe” (Brill, 2024).