chapter  1
‘Disappearing’ in international context
Memory, silence, and the law
WithLauren Dempster
Pages 29

This chapter introduces the concept of ‘disappearing’ by giving a brief historical overview of the use of the practice, examining how the act is defined in legal terms and analysing the impact on those left behind. It discusses the body of research that exists on silence and memory, as concepts that recur in accounts of ‘disappearances’ and their aftermath. The chapter explores the ‘rationales’ presented for ‘disappearing’ in various international contexts. To analyse the ‘disappearances’ that occurred during the conflict in Northern Ireland, it is useful to begin by situating ‘disappearing’ in its historical and international context. The removal of those perceived as a threat is one rationale for ‘disappearing’ that has been presented in Ireland93 and internationally. Internationally, various strategies have been used in order to bring the memory of the ‘disappeared’ into public view – both to honour their memory and to draw attention to the suffering of families.