Sarah E. Wagner at GW

Sarah E. Wagner

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Faculty: Full-Time
Off campus 2017-18
[email protected]

Areas of Expertise

War and memory; nationalism; biotechnology and forensic science; post-conflict social reconstruction; forced migration and diaspora; interventionism; military culture. Regional foci: Bosnia and Herzegovina and the U.S.

Dr. Wagner is on leave 2017-2018. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an NEH Public Scholar award to complete her third book, Bringing Them Home: Identifying and Remembering Vietnam War MIAs.

Professor Wagner is a social anthropologist who works in the former Yugoslavia and the United States. Her research has explored connections between the destructive and creative forces of war, focusing on the identification of missing persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, specifically victims of the Srebrenica genocide, and the United States military's attempts to recover and identify service members Missing In Action (MIA) from the past century's conflicts.

Current Research

Prof. Wagner has conducted research in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the United States, and in Vietnam alongside U.S. military personnel. Her first book was an ethnographic study of the forensic and commemorative practices developed in response to the Srebrenica genocide. Her second book, co-authored with Lara Nettelfield, examined intervention into postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina, again focused on Srebrenica and its legacy of loss and remembrance.

Ongoing projects

Her current research focuses on the U.S. government’s attempt to account for its service members Missing In Action (MIA) and presumed dead from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. As part of this project, she is working on her third book, Bringing Them Home: The Identification and Commemoration of Vietnam War MIAs, which traces shifting civil-military relations and notions of national belonging through recovery and return of remains to surviving families.


Ph.D. 2006, Harvard University
M.A.L.D. 2002, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
B.A. 1994, Dartmouth College



2015  Nettelfield, L.J., and S. Wagner. Srebrenica nakon genocida. Bosnian edition of 2014 book. Sarajevo, Bosnia: Institute of History, University of Sarajevo.

2014  Nettelfield, L.J., and S. Wagner. Srebenica in the Aftermath of Genocide. New York: Cambridge University Press.

2008  Wagner, S. To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Selected Articles and Book Chapters

2017    Rosenblatt, A. and S. Wagner. “Known Unknowns: DNA Identifications, the Nation-state, and the Iconic Dead, in Chris Stojanowski and William Duncan, eds., Studies in Forensic Biohistory: Anthropological Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

2016    Wagner, S. and Kešetovic, R. “Absent bodies, absent knowledge: The forensic work of identifying Srebrenica’s missing and the social experiences of fFamilies,” in Derek Congram, ed., Missing Persons: Multidisciplinary Perspectives and Methods on Finding the Disappeared. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.

2015  Wagner, S. "The quandaries of partial and commingled remains: Srebrenica’s missing and Korean War casualties compared." In Francisco Ferrándiz and Antonius Robben, eds., Necropolitics: Mass Graves and Exhumations in the Age of Human Rights. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

2015  Daynes, S. and S. Wagner. "Usages contemporains de Marcel Mauss dans les sciences sociales aux Etats-Unis (A propos du don et du commerce de sang, d’organes, et de cellules)." In E. Dianteill, ed., Marcel Mauss: en théorie et en pratique, 271-292. Paris: Archives Karéline.

2015  Wagner, S. “A curious trade: The recovery and repatriation of Vietnam MIAs," Comparative Studies in Society and History 57(1): 161-190.

2015  Jessee, E., and S. Wagner. "Among the Anonymous Dead: Exhumations and the 'Emotive Materiality' of Deceased Victims of Mass Violence," Emergent Conversations: Part I Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR).

2014  Wagner, S. "The social complexities of commingled remains.” In B. Adams and J. Byrd, eds., Commingled Human Remains: Methods in Recovery, Analysis and Identification. New York: Academic Press.

2013  Wagner, S. “The making and unmaking of an Unknown Soldier,” Social Studies of Science 43(5): 631-656.

2010  Wagner, S. “Identifying Srebrenica’s missing: The ‘shaky balance’ of universalism and particularism.” In A. Hinton, ed., Transitional Justice: Global Mechanisms and Local Realities after Genocide and Mass Violence. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

2010  Wagner, S. “Tabulating loss, entombing memory: The Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Centre.” In E. Anderson, A. Maddrell, K. McLoughlin, and A. Vincent, eds., Memory, Mourning, Landscape. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

2010  Wagner, S. "Response to “Deleuze and an Anthropology of Becoming,” by João Biehl and Peter Locke, Current Anthropology 51(3): 344-45.

2009  Wagner, S., and C. Quintyn. "Dismantling a national icon: Genetic testing and the Tomb of the Unknowns," Anthropology News 50(5), May.

Classes Taught

To see syllabi, click on the course title.

Anth 1002: Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology
Anth 2008: Foundations of Anthropology
Anth 2502: Anthropology of Science and Technology
Anth 3531: Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology
Anth 6391: Topics: War and Memory
Anth 6531: Methods in Sociocultural Anthropology


Last updated May 9, 2017