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|Title:||Trophies and Talismans: The Traffic of Human Remains|
|Advisor:||Herring, D. Ann|
Badone, Ellen E.F.
|Keywords:||Human remains;specimens;Catholic Church;Western medicine;relics;undisposed dead;Anthropology;Arts and Humanities;Social and Behavioral Sciences;Anthropology|
|Abstract:||<p>This dissertation examines how human remains are circulated as material culture in contemporary Western society. It is based on an extended period of research and fieldwork carried out from September 2011 to June 2013, in addition to forensic-related research conducted from 2007 to 2010. Through interviews with individuals who handle human remains and an analysis of popular culture via social and mass media, I pose the question: How and why have the undisposed dead been made to occupy a variety of spaces in contemporary Western society; for personal use, education, sale, or veneration?</p> <p>Interviews conducted with Roman Catholic clergy confirm not only the contemporary importance and influence of human relics, but the Church’s ongoing relationship with the dismembered body. This research thus offers a counterpoint to the usual positioning of the Church as anti-science and as imposing a religious taboo toward human remains. I argue instead that the Catholic Church historically has had an important influence on the practices of anatomical dissection, and the deeply embedded Western traditions of making the undisposed dead necessary, popular and culturally acceptable.</p> <p>As an extension of my analysis of the Catholic Church’s traditions and policies around the use of human remains, I examine the institutional handling of the dead in various types of museums and compare this with how human remains are celebrated and circulated in popular culture. Lastly, I explore the work of five controversial visual artists who use human remains in their art.1 Through extensive personal interviews, conducted in their homes and studios, I demonstrate how Catholic bodies, images and symbols have profoundly inspired (rather than discouraged) these visual artists in their personal, as well as artistic narratives.</p> <p>My research shows that, contrary to the academic literature, human remains are neither imbued with fear, nor with notions of violence or taboo; neither are they deployed to symbolically encounter death. In the hands of either institutional or personal collectors, I argue that human remains are valuable commodities through which membership, identity, and knowledge are expressed in contemporary Western society.</p> <p>1 Wayne Martin Belger, Al Farrow, Andrew Krasnow, Mark Prent, Joel Peter Witkin</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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