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What Remains


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About the Author

Sarah E. Wagner is Associate Professor of Anthropology at George Washington University. She has written widely on war and its devastations, focusing in particular on forensic efforts to recover and identify the victims of violence in both the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is the author of two previous books, To Know Where He Lies and, with Lara J. Nettelfield, Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocide. She has received a number of awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Unlike many other previous books on MIA accounting that have focused on the political history of the issue during the Reagan era or that have chronicled a single individual's efforts to recover a family member in Vietnam, Wagner seeks to understand the social context and meaning of MIA forensic accounting...Thoughtful and objective. -- Montgomery McFate * Science *
What Remains is a book to have on your shelf and one to return to time and again. The stories Wagner tells should make all of us think about how we choose to remember and honor those who die in wars on foreign soil. -- Sue Black, author of All That Remains: A Renowned Forensic Scientist on Death, Mortality, and Solving Crimes
Situated at the intersection of forensic science, dogged determination, grief, remembrance, and, of course, politics, What Remains is a profound and moving book. -- Andrew J. Bacevich, author of The Age of Illusions: How America Squandered Its Cold War Victory
Powerful, poetic, and haunting, this brilliant book tells the story of the extraordinary search for traces of American soldiers missing in action in the Vietnam War. Moving from families living for decades with uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones to scientists using every tool in their kit bag to find the truth about what happened to these men, Wagner offers us a profound meditation on the aftermath of war. -- Jay Winter, author of Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History
Wagner brilliantly weaves together the fascinating story of DNA recovery and identification with that of the haunting of American politics through the legacy of the Vietnam War. Totally absorbing, excellently researched and told: a must-read! -- Tam T. T. Ngo, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Ethnic and Religious Diversity
An expert account of a little-known but massive forensic program. * Kirkus Reviews *
A thoughtful study of the ways in which forensic science has changed public and private rituals for commemorating America's fallen soldiers...Written with poignancy and academic rigor. * Publishers Weekly *
Fascinating and revealing...This unique and valuable book mixes a solid explanation of the science involved in identifying American military MIAs who went missing many decades ago in Southeast Asia with a history of the Pentagon's many-faceted and sometimes controversial post-Vietnam-War MIA work. -- Marc Leepson * VVA Veteran *
Excellent...An important and well-researched book on the history of America's evolving care (recovery, identification and burial) of its 'honored dead.' -- Jerry D. Morelock * HistoryNet *
Well crafted, extensively researched, and thought provoking...I highly recommend this poignant book to anyone interested in learning about the challenges and politics of accounting for the dead and missing in the aftermath of war and how we honor and remember our dead. American policy makers and senior- to mid-grade military officers would benefit from reading this book to remind them that the costs of going to war continue well after the battlefields are silent. -- Lt. Col. Edward D. Jennings * Military Review *
Impressive research...Wagner skillfully evokes the anguish...inflicted on families yearning for the closure offered by tangible remains they could bury at home and publicly mourn and memorialize. Her interviews put a human face on what can seem to be little more than a resentment-fueled refighting of decades-old battles...Wagner makes a persuasive case for the key role of forensic science in resolving certain ambiguities and animosities of the Vietnam War. -- Thomas Hawley * Michigan War Studies Review *

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