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Heonik Kwon

The Hill Fight of the Korean War constitutes an important chapter of the formative military conflict of the mid-twentieth century where the South Korean and other UN forces confronted the Chinese and North Korean forces. Currently, it has become a vital site of contested memory, especially in relation to the growing contest of power between the United States and the People’s Republic of China. Describing South Korea’s recent initiative of missing in action (MIA)/killed in action (KIA) accounting activities on these old battlegrounds since 2000, this article looks at how public actions concerning the remains of war are intertwined with changing geopolitical conditions. This will be followed by a reflection on the limits of the prevailing art and technology of war-remains accounting.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Sarah Wagner

A half-century since its conclusion, the Vietnam War’s ‘work of remembrance’ in the United States continues to generate, even innovate, forms of homecoming and claims of belonging among the state, its military and veterans, surviving families and the wider public. Such commemoration often centres on objects that materialise, physically or symbolically, absence and longed-for recovery or reunion – from wartime artefacts-turned-mementos to the identified remains of missing war dead. In exploring the war’s proliferating memory work, this article examines the small-scale but persistent practice of leaving or scattering cremains at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington DC, against the backdrop of the US military’s efforts to account for service members missing in action (MIA). Seen together, the illicit and sanctioned efforts to return remains (or artefacts closely associated with them) to places of social recognition and fellowship shed light on the powerful role the dead have in mediating war’s meaning and the debts it incurs.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Spiritual care and memory activism at the former Republic of Vietnam military cemetery
Đạt Nguyễn

Following the end of the Vietnam–American War in 1975, the commemoration of the fallen soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) remains a difficult issue. The post-war Vietnamese state has marginalised ARVN dead from its national commemorative practices, while it has destroyed or neglected former South Vietnam memorial sites. This article provides an examination of recent efforts by local ARVN former combatants, living relatives of fallen soldiers and young Vietnamese to attend to the upkeep of the former ARVN cemetery in southern Vietnam. Based on participant observation and interviews, I explore how people care for the dead through regular acts of grave maintenance and religious rituals. I show that, through these persistent practices of care, southern Vietnamese engage in a form of memory activism to ensure the continual existence of the cemetery and lay claims to the right to mourn for the marginalised dead.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The enigmas of empty graves, encrypted archives and porous bones
Tâm T. T. Ngô

This article details the remarkable involvement of the Vietnamese population in finding and naming half a million Vietnamese missing-in-action (MIAs). The secrecy that characterised Vietnam’s military operations during wartime, and the overlapping claims and therefore control of the MIAs by the army and civil administrations in the aftermath of the wars, are the reasons behind unsolvable quagmires in Vietnam’s current war-accounting effort. The myriad of state actors involved who often work at cross purposes raises the public’s awareness of the incompetence of the state and calls for the participation of non-state actors. The latest potential avenue to solve the MIA problem, DNA forensics, is facing all kinds of challenges, such as the quality of the bone samples and the scale of the effort. War accounting has therefore become an open arena of public engagement and popular dissent, while significantly transforming the cult of the dead in Vietnam.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Body and experience in the archaeological and historical record
Karen Harvey

Despite a growing interest in ‘embodiment’, historians of the body rarely consider the extant material remains of their subject. This chapter seeks to contribute to a discussion about how historians and other scholars might examine the archaeological (and particularly bioarchaeological record) and the historical record together in order to better understand the embodied experiences of people in the past. This chapter offers new ways to study past embodied experiences as an outcome of the material, social and cultural. Focusing on two non-elite individuals from the north of England between 1793 and 1849, it draws on the rich but also incomplete evidence to reconstruct their lives as lived. The first case study explores the themes of risk, youth and masculinity, focusing on James Simpson (1815–34), the son of a currier and leather cutter in Sheffield. This case underscores the advantages of class and gender, as well as the risks of damage posed to young men’s bodies in early nineteenth century towns. The second case study is Ann Purvis (c.1793–1849), a member of a family of river pilots in South Shields. The analysis exposes the vulnerabilities caused to women by poverty and singlehood, as well as the evident care and social status available to such women within the family. The chapter demonstrates that bringing the bioarchaeological, material and historical record together and, in particular, in exploring the tensions between them, produces new knowledge about the lived experiences of non-elite individuals in the past that would otherwise be inaccessible.

in The material body
Cultural historical and osteoarchaeological perspectives
Sophie L. Newman
and
David M. Turner

While there has been much work on definitions of old age and the experiences of older people in the past, there have been comparatively few studies that explore the physical processes of ageing and the relationship between old age and disability in the working classes of Britain during the Industrial Revolution. Through the combination of osteological, textual and cultural evidence, this chapter reveals how experiences of ageing, and related impairments, were influenced by gender and social status in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The bodily consequences of impairment imparted by industrialised society, and the processes of ageing, are examined in three individual skeletal biographies from Hazel Grove, Stockport and St Hilda’s, South Shields. While impaired bodies have often been viewed as marginal or ‘othered’, official reports, medical sources and social and political commentary suggests that physical difference was an expected and ‘normal’ experience of the working classes. Large proportions of the working population were at risk of impairment by occupational injury, disease and poor living conditions, and this was frequently conceptualised as premature ageing. As such the onset of old age was determined by occupation and, against the backdrop of a sharpening division of labour and economic opportunity, by gender. In this context, the history of old age and the history of disability are inextricably linked. Continued dialogues between osteological and historical researchers can enrich our understanding of marginalised populations, and our own perceptions of who was considered ‘old’ in past societies.

in The material body
Footwear and gender in Britain, 1700–1850
Matthew McCormack

This chapter focuses on shoes from early eighteenth- to mid-nineteenth-century Britain, in order to propose some approaches to the histories of gender, embodiment and material culture. Shoes reveal a great deal about gender, given the contrasting designs and functions that have historically been ascribed to male and female footwear. Furthermore, they tell us much about the body, since the height of the heel and the flexibility of the sole impact upon the posture and motions of the body. As well as altering the visual shape of the body, footwear affects the ability of the wearer to perform tasks such as walking, riding and physical labour. They therefore relate in important ways to the social roles that have historically been ascribed to men and women, and the history of shoes offers a critical perspective on historians’ accounts of gender change in the eighteenth century. As well as the impact of shoes on the body, the chapter considers the impact of the body on shoes. Because shoes bear the whole weight of the body and endure great stresses, they take the form of the body and become individual to their wearer. This provides historians with a rich primary source about the wearer’s body, with evidence of body shape and walking gait visible in wear patterns, stretches and scuffs. The chapter therefore argues that an embodied history of shoes offers a unique insight into the bodies of historical actors.

in The material body
Open Access (free)
The material body in archaeology and history
Elizabeth Craig-Atkins
and
Karen Harvey

The introduction to The Material Body examines the theoretical frameworks of the material turn, new materialism and embodiment and explores how the social and material are combined in the making of embodied experience. It also reveals how archaeologists and historians – when they work together – are uniquely placed to revolutionise the study of people as embodied subjects. The Introduction explores how the chapters collectively integrate sources, concepts and methods from archaeology, history and material culture studies to study embodied lives in the past. The selection of studies of the period c.1700–1850 exploits the rich and diverse archaeological, bioarchaeological, material and historical sources available for that period. It also brings into focus bodies that might be considered ‘ordinary’ and ‘marginalised’ and draws attention to temporally significant categories of identity – including age, gender, class and disability – in ways that highlight structures of matter, thought, culture and power through which embodied experiences were formed. The introduction also draws out the significance of the innovative methods presented in this book: the collaboration of archaeologists and historians in devising and writing chapters; the study of the material body through novel combinations of skeletal remains, material objects, text and image; the deployment of different scales of analysis, from the personal to the national; and the use of reflective practice among co-authors to explore productive tensions in evidence and epistemology.

in The material body
Open Access (free)
Integrating historical and archaeological evidence for reproduction in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries
Elizabeth Craig-Atkins
and
Mary E. Fissell

This chapter explores an archaeological finding unique in Britain – a burial group of thirty-four perinates and fetuses from a late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century site in South Shields – while adopting and reflecting upon a novel model of co-working between an archaeologist and historian. The interments, dating from c.1780–1818, were situated in unconsecrated ground adjoining an active churchyard, suggesting a process of ‘vernacular consecration’ occurred, in which the regular burial of unbaptised remains just outside the churchyard sanctified the area. The authors locate these findings in a landscape of working-class reproductive risk and argue that the site reflects a paradox: working-class infants were both highly valued and often unwanted. Historical and archaeological methods are brought together to explore three intersecting fields of force within which the authors constitute the material and documentary evidence: high perinatal mortality rates and experience of miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death; the importance but high cost of decent burial among all social classes; and the potential for unwanted pregnancies resulting from lack of access to reliable contraception and the stigma of unwed motherhood. Methodologically, the authors eschew what they call ‘the handmaiden problem’ in which one discipline is treated as accessory to another, concealing epistemological practices. Adopting a critical approach to interdisciplinary collaborative writing, they show how archaeological and historical analyses of this site can be both reinforcing and result in productive conflict. The new insights our approach has generated provides a strong justification for its widespread adoption when integrating historical and archaeological sources.

in The material body
Open Access (free)
Embodiment, history and archaeology in industrialising England, 1700–1850

The Material Body exploits the possibilities of studying the material body in the past primarily through the sources and approaches of archaeology, history and material culture studies. Together, these seven chapters draw upon collections of human remains, material culture and documentary evidence from Britain during the period 1700–1850; major themes are gender, class, age, disability and maternity. Some contributions are co-authored by a historian and archaeologist; others are single authored. But each chapter explores the lived experiences of the material body drawing on disciplines which share an interest in the material or embodied turn. The volume demonstrates new interdisciplinary ways of looking at experiences of the body. It brings together archaeological and historical data to reconstruct embodied experiences and represents the first collection of genuinely collaborative scholarship by historians and archaeologists.