IAS Fellows' Public Lecture - The Speaking Corpse: the dead body's evidence and the forensic imaginary
The dead body is said to speak truthfully about its past. Popular texts about forensic investigations often describe skeletons as “witnesses from the grave”, or claim that bones can speak to those who are qualified to listen. In this lecture Dr Zoe Crossland explores how the evidence of the dead is imagined in mass-market novels and memoirs written by forensic anthropologists. Such texts allow a certain rhetorical and representational freedom that is not available to authors in professional venues. They often tackle questions of emotion, religion and morality, ghosts and animate human remains, themes that are not often treated in academic discussions. The mass-market books written by anthropologists are largely framed within familiar genre conventions and the forensic imaginary that is expressed through these texts is remarkably coherent, providing a rich source for understanding the attitudes and beliefs that are caught up in forensic work in North America. These popular texts reveal something of how the discipline has traditionally been imagined, and how the work of forensic intervention is authorized. They share an emphasis on the distinct status of the anthropologist as a specialist who enables the dead to speak, and in doing so show how the figure of the forensic expert works to negotiate the tricky and morally charged work of dealing with human remains.
This lecture is free and open to all.
Details about Dr Zoe Crossland
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