Excavating a Hidden Past: The Forensic Turn in Spain's Collective Memory

Forensic exhumations are increasingly part of transitional justice processes worldwide. In what I call a ‘forensic turn’ in politics of memory, the judicial evidence found on victim’s bodies is believed to contribute to the historic record. In Spain as well, a recent memory movement uses exhumations of mass graves from the Civil War and Francoist dictatorship to break Spain’s so-called ‘pact of forgetting.’ However, contrary to international trends, the Spanish exhumations are conducted outside a legal framework. Moreover, they do not always reveal unknown facts, since, rather than forgotten, Spain’s war record is subject to a prohibition on collective or political representation. Therefore, I contend that the inscription of Spain in the forensic turn on the one hand helps to overcome political contestation of engaging with the Civil war past, but on the other, limits the exhumations’ contribution to the historical record to forensic truth.