Convened by Dr Craig Young (Manchester Met) and Helen Darby (Research Impact Manager, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Manchester Met)

Watch our 2014 video here

This event discussed a wide range of issues in contemporary society surrounding the human body after the point of death. We specifically addressed how the materiality of the human corpse is treated in and through display, exhibition, sanctification, memorialisation, burial and disposal.

Encountering Corpses

We dealt with questions such as:

  • How do we deal with the ethics of displaying bodies in museums (as with the mummies of Manchester) and in art (as with the infamous ‘Bodyworlds’ exhibits)?
  • What are the public services challenges of managing the increased numbers of deaths amongst our ageing population?
  • Is it right to dig up and move Richard III or to view the bones and death sites of genocide victims as a form of tourism?
  • How do corpses function as socio-political subjects in contemporary politics and subject formation?
  • What are the issues raised by their display in news media and social networking?

These questions and more were debated in a day that also involved the active viewing of human remains within the Manchester Museum collections and then discussed this experience as a group.

Encountering Corpses

Topics under consideration included:

Burial, commemoration, ritual

• Handling the dead: mortuary and cemetery

• Public services and the corpse

• Rituals and burials

• War memorials (unknown soldier, Flanders Field, First World War dead)

• Mobile corpses (disinterment and reinternment)

Curation and tourism

• Museum display of remains

• Genocide tourism and curating

• Grave tourism

• Archaeology – Richard III, public engagement

• Facial recreation, privacy and respect

Art, aesthetics and ethics

• Ossuary

• Ethics of handling and display of remains

• Display of remains as art

• Corpses in news media, social networking

Encountering Corpses

Speakers included:

• Emma Fox (Southern Cemetery tours)

• Sue Fox (Manchester Met)

• Paul Koudounaris (Author of ‘The Empire of the Death’ and ‘Heavenly Bodies’)

• Duncan Light (Manchester Met)

• Samantha McCormick (Manchester Met)

• Lee Mellor (Author of ‘Cold North Killers’)

• Campbell Price (Manchester)

• Julie Rugg (York)

• Faye Sayer (Manchester Met)

• Bryan Sitch (Manchester)

• Craig Young (Manchester Met)

See what was said around the web about Encountering Corpses on our Storify.