...:::[ violence, the sacred and rights of the dead ]:::...

Andrzej Fasiecki, Element (2009)

poster .pdf

Ewa Domanska

Spring 2009 - Wednesday 5.15-8.05 pm - bldg: 240-101

Anthro 337A - FrenGen 367 [3-5 units]


This course will provide students with an overview of current concepts, theories and approaches for studying relations between violence, the sacred and the rights of the dead as a way of conceiving what remains of the sacred in political life today. The “politics of dead bodies” and the “reburial issue” have become key issues in the humanities during the past few decades and link scholars from various disciplines (history, archaeology, anthropology, law, forensic sciences, art). Questions of whether it is justifiable to disinter human remains and examine them for scientific purposes have caused intense controversies, as has the problem of putting the dead to political use. Tensions arise between the expectations of the living and the rights of the dead, for whom, as it is often assumed, the body no longer matters. Even speaking of the personality of the dead body in the context of its inviolability (law) and memory (doing honor to the dead person) involves the ubiquitous “politics of heritage.” In this context, the contemporary examples of reburial practices of indigenous people, exhumation of disappeared bodies in Latin America, exhibitions of human remains, representation of dead bodies in art will be analyzed. In the course we will discuses notions of posthumous dignity, posthumous privacy, posthumous reputation, posthumous wrongs, posthumous punishment, and posthumous reparation. Rene Girard's theory of the relationship between violence and the sacred will serve as the base for theorizing the problem.



Attendance is mandatory. Students who miss more than three meetings (except for illness or others serious matters) will not be graded. Students are expected to read assigned readings carefully and participate in discussions. Each student will sign up to present a text relevant to the theme of the readings for that week. Class presentations will be limited to 10-15 minutes. A 15 pages final paper is required. Its topic will be chosen by the student himself/herself. It can draw upon work being done in other classes but must utilize the materials of this course as well. Grading: participation - 40%; class presentation - 20%; final paper - 40%.



1. Introduction: overview of the course

2. Staus of the dead body and/or human remains

  • Andrew T. Chamberlain and Michael Parker Pearson, “To Infinity and Beyond?”, in their, Earthly Remains. The History and Science of Preserved Human Bodies. The British Museum Press, 2001: 7-9; 169-188.
  • Robert P. Harrison, The Dominion of the Dead. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2003 (chapter 2 ad 9).
  • Howard Williams, “Death Warmed Up. The Agency of Bodies and Bones in Early Anglo-Saxon Cremations Rites.” Journal of Material Culture, vol. 9, no. 3, 2004: 263-291.
    • Tim Flohr Sørensen, "The presence of the dead: Cemeteries, cremation and the staging of non-place." Journal of Social Archaeology, vol. 9, no. 1, 2009: 110-135.
    • Ewa Domanska, "Toward the Archaeontology of the Dead Body," transl. by Magdalena Zapedowska. Rethinking History , vol. 9, no. 4, December 2005: 389-413.

3. The Rights of the Dead

  • Antoon de Baets, “A Declaration of the Responsibilities of Present Generations Toward Past Generations.” History and Theory, vol. 43, no. 4, 2004: 130–164.
  • John Sutton Baglow, “The Rights of the Corpse.” Mortality , vol. 12, no. 3, August 2007: 223-239.
  • Alison Dundes Renteln, “The Rights of the Dead: Autopsies and Corpse Mismanagement in Multicultural Societies.” The South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 100, no. 4, Fall 2001: 1006-1027.
  • Joan C. Callahan, “ On Harming the Dead.” Ethics , vol. 97, no. 2, January 1987: 341-352.
    • Steven Luper, “Posthumous Harm.” American Philosophical Quarterly , vol. 41, no. 1, January 2004: 63-71.
    • Paul G. Bahn, “Do Not Disturb? Archaeology and the Rights of the Dead.” Oxford Journal of Archaeology, vol. 3, no. 1, 1984: 127-139.

4. Biopolitics and the Dead

  • Michel Foucault, "Lecture - 17 March 1976", in his, “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–1976 , trans. David Macey. New York: Picador, 2003: 239-263.
  • Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz. The Witness and the Archive. New York : Zone Books, 1999. ["The Muselman": 2.1-24 and 3.23-24; 4.5; 4.7-10]
  • Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics”, tranl. By Libby Meintjes. Public Culture, vol. 15, no. 1: 11-40.
    • Rosi Braidotti, “Bio-Power and Necro-Politics. Reflections on an Ethics of Sustainability”
    • Sharon R. Kaufman and Lynn M. Morgan, “The Anthropology of the Beginning and Ends of Life.” The Annual Review of Anthropology , vol. 34, 2005: 317-341.
    • Nicolas Rose and Carlos Novas, “Biological Citizenship,” in: Global Assemblages. Technology, Politics and Ethics as Anthropological Problems, ed. by Aihwa Ong and Stephen J. Collier. Blackwell, 2005: 339-463.

5. Corpus Sacrum

  • Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998 ["Introduction" :1-12; part III: The Camp as Biopolotical Paradigm of the Modern":119-180; "Treshold": 181-188.]
  • Rey Chow, “Sacrifice, Mimesis, and the Theorizing of Victimhood. (A Speculative Essay).” Representations , vol. 94, Spring 2006: 131-149.
    • Jonathan Sheehan, “Sacrifice Before the Secular.” Representations, no. 105, 2009: 12-36.

6. The Political Uses of Dead Bodies

  • Katherine Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies. Reburial and Postsocialist Change . New York : Columbia University Press, 1999.
  • István Rév, “Parallel Autopsies.” Representations, no. 49, Winter, 1995: 15-39.
  • Michael C. Kearl; Anoel Rinaldi, “ The Political Uses of the Dead as Symbols in Contemporary Civil Religions.” Social Forces , vol. 61, no. 3, March 1983: 693-708.
  • Stuart J. Murray, “Thanatopolitics: On the Use of Death for Mobilizing Political Life.” Paragraph, vol. 18, 2006: 191-215.
    • Anne-Marie Cantwell, "'Who Knows the Power of His Bones'. Reburial Redux," in: Ethics and Anthropology: Facing Future Issues in Human Biology, Globalism, and Cultural Property, ed. by Anne-Marie Cantwell, Eva Friedlander, Madeleine L. Tramm. New York, 2002.
    • Joyce, C. and Stover, E. Witnesses from the Grave: The Stories Bones Tell, Little Brown, Boston, 1991.
    • Nurit Stadler, "Terror, Corpse Symbolism, and Taboo Violation: The 'Heredi Distaster Victim Identification Team in Israel' (ZAKA)." Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, vol. 12, no. 4, December 2006: 837-858.
    • Zoë Crossland, "Buried Lives: Forensic Archaeology and the Disappeared in Argentina." Archaeological Dialogues, vol. 7, no. 2, 2000: 146-159.

7. Violence and the Sacred
special guest: Rene Girard

  • Rene Girard, Violence and the Sacred, trans. Patrick Gregory. Baltimore, 1977 (chapters: 1, 2, 6, 10).
    • The Girard Reader, ed. by James G. Williams. New York : The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1996 (chapters 1, 2, 3, 8).

8. Violating the dead (The Rights of Indigenous Human Remains)
special guest: Jon Daehnke

  • James Riding In, "Our Dead Are Never Forgotten: American Indian Struggles for Burial Rights and Protections," in, "They Made Us Many Promises": The American Indian Experience, 1524 to the Present, ed. by Phillip Weeks. Wheeling, Ill.: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 2002: 291-323.
  • Gerald Vizenor, “Bone Courts: The Rights and Narrative Representation of Tribal Bones.” American Indian Quarterly , vol. 10, no. 4, Autumn, 1986: 319-331.
  • Reparation Reader. Who owns American Indian Remains?, ed. by Devon A. Mihesuah. Loncoln and London: University of Nebrasca Press, 2000 (chapter 6, 7 and 13).
  • Janek, Blake, “Beyond Death: The Treatment of Indigenous Human Remains—a Human Rights Perspective”. Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations, vol. 18, no. 3, July 2007: 267–375.
    • M. P. Pearson, The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 1999.
    • Anthony Purdy, “Unearthing the past: the archaeology of bog bodies in Glob, Atwood, Hébert and Drabble.” Textual Practice, vol. 16, no. 3 , 2002: 443–458.
    • Angie K. Huxley and Michael Finnegan, “Human Remains Sold to the Highest Bidder! A Snapshot of the Buying and Selling of Human Skeletal Remains on eBay, and Internet Auction Site.” Journal of Forensic Science, vol. 49, no. 1, 2004: 1-4.

9. Exhibiting Human Remains

  • Juli Linke, "Touching the Corpse. The Unmaking of Memory in the Body Museum." Anthropology Today, vol. 21, no. 5, October 2005: 13-19.
    • José van Dijck, “Bodyworlds: The Art of Plastinated Cadavers.” Configurations, vol. 9, 2001: 99–126.
    • Charleen M. Moore & C. Mackenzie Brown, “Experiencing Body Worlds: Voyeurism, Education, or Enlightenment?” Journal of Medical Humanities , vol. 28, 2007: 231–254.
    • Petra Kuppers, “Visions of Anatomy: Exhibitions and Dense Bodies.” Differences, vol. 15, no. 3, 2004: 123-156.
    • Janis McLarren Caldwell, “The Strange Death of the Animated Cadaver: Changing Conventions in Nineteenth-Century British Anatomical Illustration.” Literature and Medicine, vol . 25, no. 2, Fall 2006: 325–357.
  • Exhibiting Human Remains, ed. by Megan Hicks. Sydney, 2001.
  • David van Duuren with Mischa ten Kate, and others, Physical anthropology Reconsidered. Human remains at the Tropenmuseum. Bulletin 375. Tropenmuseum, 2006.
    • The Dead Exhibition. National Museum of Photography Film & Television. October - 7 January 96.

10. Necroaesthetics (Picturing the Dead)

  • Shennen Hill, “Iconic Autopsy. Postmortem Portraits of Bantu Stephen Biko.” African Arts, Autumn 2005: 14-25.
  • Francesca Alfano Miglietti, “About Death,” in her: Extreme Bodies. The Use and Abuse of the Body in Art. New York : St. Martin Press, 2003: 64-85.
  • Susan Crane, “Choosing Not to Look: Representation, Reparation, and Holocaust Atrocity Photography.” History and Theory, vol. 47, October 2008: 309-330.
  • Kylie Rachel Message, “Watching Over the Wounded Eye of Gorges Bataille and Andreas Serrano”, in: Images of the Corpse From Renaissance to Cyberspace , ed. by Elizabeth Klaver. The University of Wisconsin Press: 113-132.
  • Alexei Yurchak, “Necro-Utopia. The Politics of Indistinction and the Aesthetics of the Non-Soviet.” Current Anthropology, vol. 49, no. 2, April 2008: 199-224.
  • Mark Reinhardt, “Picturing Violence: Aesthetics and the Anxiety of Critique,” in Beautiful Suffering: Photography and the Traffic in Pain, ed. Mark Reinhardt, Holly Edwards, and Erina Duganne. Chicago : University of Chicago press, 2007.
  • Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America. Boston: MIT Press, 1995.