Month: November 2015

CFP: Corpses, Cadavers and Catalogues: The Mobilities of Dead Bodies and Body Parts, Past and Present

CFP: Deadline 15th Jan 2016

CFP: Corpses, Cadavers and Catalogues: The Mobilities of Dead Bodies and Body Parts, Past and Present

May 17th-18th May 2016

Venue: Barts Pathology Museum and the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, London

Organisers: Kristin Hussey (QMUL) and Sarah Morton (Keble College, Oxford)

Advisory Panel: Dr. Tim Brown (QMUL) and Dr. Beth Greenhough (Keble College, Oxford)

Deadline for Abstracts: January 15th, 2016

An interest in the dead body, and particularly its shifting meanings, mobility and agency can be seen in recent works of museology, geography and history of medicine (Hallam, 2007; Maddrell and Sidaway, 2010; Alberti, 2011; Young and Light, 2013). The biographies of human remains held by museums have been an area of considerable interest for medical museums dealing with their Victorian inheritance. The process by which pathological specimens or samples transform from intimate relics of life to scientific data has been explored by social historians of medicine, anthropologists and archaeologists (Boston et al., 2008; Fontein et al., 2010; Withycombe, 2015). There remains, however, little discussion across these disciplines as well as need to further explore the movement of the dead body, both in the past and present, in order to consider broader questions of power, imperialism and globalisation.

From the repatriation of contentious human remains to the controversial and fascinating body-world exhibits, dead body parts circulate in multiple ways through museum spaces past and present. This two-day interdisciplinary conference will bring together museum professionals and academics to foster a productive dialogue on the movement of the dead body and the social, ethical and political challenges it presents. In contrast to the breadth of current research on the movement of the living, the subject of the dead body will be used to bridge the divide between the work of museum professionals and academics to promote the museum as a site for research, and develop new connections and networks.

Through this conference, we hope to use the dead body as a starting point for opening up wider debates on embodied knowledge, materiality and meaning-making, the role of the body in structures of inequality, and the challenges of colonial remains in a postcolonial world. We hope these two days will bring together diverse speakers from across disciplines to consider how bodies and body parts have informed their research and professional practice. We welcome papers from PhD students, early career researchers and heritage professionals, as well as works in progress.

Potential topics include but are not limited to:

* Meanings of different body parts in historical and temporal contexts

* The curation, display, and provenance of medical museum specimens

* The materialities of colonialism and politics of repatriation

* Human remains and the practice of medical history

* Provenance and interpretation of morbid and pathological specimens

* Corpse geographies, body biographies and the creation of embodied knowledge

* Ethics of human remains research and display

To submit a paper proposal, please send an email with a 250-word abstract and a short (100 word) biography to by January 15th 2016. Successful applicants will be contacted by early February 2015 and be expected to register by 1 March 2016 for the conference held 17-18 May.

For further information or informal questions about possible topics, please contact the conference organisers via :

Corpses, Cadavers and Catalogues is a collaboration between Queen Mary University of London, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons, Barts Pathology Museum, and is funded by the Wellcome Trust Small Grants programme.


‘Marginal death research: doing edgework’ event

Very interesting event at University of York, UK next week 2nd December 2015:


There is a sustained western cultural fascination with death, dying, dead bodies and wounds that includes, but is not limited to film, television, artwork, music and literature making death one of the most fertile areas to conduct research. Yet, despite this prevalence of morbidity and death representation within everyday culture it remains overshadowed by the broader death studies research framework that focuses on policy and law – the practicalities of dealing with death, the dying and the dead. Through the topic of death, this symposium seeks to bring together research which is conducted across a range of disciplines but which is often swept to the edges of death studies due to its cultural nature. It seeks to provide a platform for researchers to present and discuss their death edgework conducted in social science, the arts and humanities and contribute to the growing network of researchers engaging with death in unconventional ways.

09:30 – 17:30 Wednesday 2nd December 2015 – The Lakehouse, Heslington East Campus, University of York.

Encountering Corpses

“Across cultures and time, the corpse has been a source of fascination for the living. Today, the dead body has never been a more intriguing, important subject for scholars, public policy officials, the mass media, and the general public. The human corpse, and its social meanings and how it should be valued, discussed, disposed of, imaged, and used, is a critical subject, generating public debate, enormous media attention, and corporate interest.” (Foltyn 2008: 100).

American academic Jacque Lynn Foltyn neatly captures the focus of this blog – in what ways do we increasingly encounter corpses in contemporary society, and in what socio-cultural, political, economic and environmental contexts does this occur? How is the dead body a subject but also a powerful and active agent playing a role in shaping social relations within these contexts? These issues have long been of concern within various ‘death industries’ and professions but are increasingly the subject of academic enquiry and popular engagement.

As Foltyn (2008: 104) intriguingly concludes:

“Relic, museum exhibit, dissection spectacle, ‘‘other,’’ site of ethnic and religious identities, organ/tissue donor, monster, sex object, porn star, infotainment, funeral icon, ‘data trash’, clone precursor, simulation or real, dead bodies are maps of power and identity. In the twenty-first century, the corpse in contemporary culture is all of these things and more.”

That’s what this blog seeks to explore. I look forward to it!

Foltyn’s paper is: Foltyn, J.L. (2008) The corpse in contemporary culture: identifying, transacting, and recoding the dead body in the twenty-first century. Mortality 13: 99–104.