encountering corpses

‘Encountering Corpses II’ 2016 now announced and tickets available!

I am delighted to be able to announce that we have finalised the programme for the next Encountering Corpses day symposia on Saturday 19th March 2016.

This event, open to all, will discuss the dead body in relation to the mobilities and economies of their parts. Our first panel will discuss organ donation, organ trafficking and how medical students interact with donated corpses. Our plenary will advocate for public access to human remains for education and emotional edification. Finally, we will address encounters with corpses in terms of cultural and subcultural practices: the dead bodies on Everest and how these relate to the culture of mountaineering, the concentration in contemporary media on the physicality of the celebrity dead body in the immediate minutes, hours and days after death, and the historical and contemporary practices around the preservation of tattooed human skin.

Book your £15 ticket for the event which will be held at Manchester Crematorium (constructed 1892)

Book your £15 ticket for the event which will be held at Manchester Crematorium (constructed 1892)

Also incorporated in the day will be tours of the Manchester Crematorium ‘back office’ facilities, and a visit to the Greater Manchester Police social centre for lunch.

Further details and a full draft schedule can be found here on the blog and over on Eventbrite where you can book your £15 ticket.

Based on the demand for the 2014 event we would expect this to sell out fairly rapidly!

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.

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