Bedeviling binaries: An integrated and dialectical approach to forensic anthropology in northern Uganda

Tricia Redeker Hepner, Dawnie W. Steadman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


Tenacious binaries bedevil forensic anthropology's theory and practice in human rights contexts. When positioned within the larger global universes of human rights and transitional justice, moreover, forensic anthropology engages with other often apparently opposing forces: positivism/interpretivism, universalism/relativism, science/culture, and even living/dead. Stalemated dichotomous relationships may become productive, dialectical ones through the critically engaged application of forensic science in the service of human rights. In this chapter the authors provide an overview of their ongoing work in Uganda and some of the key findings by their team to date that illustrate how situations that may appear not to be forensically relevant become so when carefully situated in terms of culture, history, politics, cosmology, and human experience. They show how deploying ethnographic inquiry as intrinsic, even a priori, to forensic intervention makes the latter more intelligible to survivors so they may determine whether its application is desirable and for what purposes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationAnthropology of Violent Death
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical Foundations for Forensic Humanitarian Action
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781119806394
ISBN (Print)9781119806363
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • Forensic anthropology
  • Human rights
  • Northern Uganda
  • Tenacious binaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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