Credit: Alexa Hagerty
Credit: Alexa Hagerty

Alexa Hagerty writes a haunting account of violence, grief and forensic anthropology and crimes against humanity in Latin America.

Released today, Still Life with Bones a new book by Alexa Hagerty, Affiliate of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, exploring what science can tell us about the lives of the dead.

Over the course of Guatemala’s thirty-year armed conflict -the longest ever in Central America-over 200,000 people were killed.

During Argentina’s military dictatorship in the seventies, over 30,000 people were disappeared. Today, forensic anthropologists in each country are gathering evidence to prove atrocities and seek justice. But these teams do more than just study skeletons-they work to repair families and countries torn apart by violence.

In Still Life with Bones, Alexa Hagerty examines bones for evidence of torture and fatal wounds-hands bound by rope, cuts from machetes-but also for signs of a life lived: to articulate how life shapes us down to the bone. A weaver is recognized from the tiny bones of the toes, molded by years of kneeling before a loom; a girl is identified alongside her pet dog.

In the tenderness of understanding these bones, Hagerty discovers how exhumation serves as a ritual in the naming and placement of the dead, and connects ancestors with future generations.

She shows us how this work can bring meaning to families dealing with unimaginable loss, and how its symbolic force can also extend to entire societies in the aftermath of state terror and genocide.

Encountering the dead has the power to transform us, making us consider each other, our lives, and the world differently.

You can read Alexa’s interview with The Times 

Read Alexa’s interview with The New York Times

Find out more about Still Life with Bones

About Alexa Hagerty

Alexa Hagerty is an anthropologist researching science, technology, and human rights. She holds a PhD from Stanford University and is an Affiliate of the Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy, University of Cambridge.