The display of human remains is a controversial issue in many contemporary societies, with many museums globally removing them from display. However, their place in genocide memorials is also contested. Objections towards the display of remains are based strongly in the social sciences and humanities, predicated on assumptions made regarding the relationship between respect, identification and personhood. As remains are displayed scientifically and anonymously, it is often argued that the personhood of the remains is denied, thereby rendering the person ‘within’ the remains invisible. In this article I argue that the link between identification and personhood is, in some contexts, tenuous at best. Further, in the context of Cambodia, I suggest that such analyses ignore the ways that local communities and Cambodians choose to interact with human remains in their memorials. In such contexts, the display of the remains is central to restoring their personhood and dignity.
Sacralisation and militarisation in the remembrance of the ‘cursed soldiers’
Marije Hristova and Monika Żychlińska
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.
Debates on the relevance of repatriation of indigenous human remains are water under the bridge today. Yet, a genuine will for dialogue to work through colonial violence is found lacking in the European public sphere. Looking at local remembrance of the Majimaji War (1905–7) in the south of Tanzania and a German–Tanzanian theatre production, it seems that the spectre of colonial headhunting stands at the heart of claims for repatriation and acknowledgement of this anti-colonial movement. The missing head of Ngoni leader Songea Mbano haunts the future of German–Tanzanian relations in heritage and culture. By staging the act of post-mortem dismemberment and foregrounding the perspective of descendants, the theatre production Maji Maji Flava offers an honest proposal for dealing with stories of sheer colonial violence in transnational memory.
Greer Vanderbyl, John Albanese, and Hugo F. V. Cardoso
The sourcing of cadavers for North American skeletal reference collections occurred immediately after death and targeted the poor and marginalised. In Europe, collections sourced bodies that were buried and unclaimed after some time in cemeteries with no perpetual care mandate, and may have also targeted the underprivileged. The relationship between socio-economic status (SES) and abandonment was examined in a sample of unclaimed remains (603 adults and 98 children) collected from cemeteries in the city of Lisbon, Portugal, that were incorporated in a collection. Results demonstrate that low SES individuals are not more likely to be abandoned nor to be incorporated in the collection than higher SES individuals. Furthermore, historical data indicate that the poorest were not incorporated into the collection, because of burial practices. Although the accumulation of collections in North America was facilitated by structural violence that targeted the poor and marginalised, this phenomenon seems largely absent in the Lisbon collection.
Tangible engagements in the making and ‘remaking’ of prehistoric rock
Lara Bacelar Alves
This chapter investigates some of the steps that might have taken place
before and after carving or painting a dot on to a rock surface, as images
come into being, from the observation of features emanating from the
landscape to the tasks of experiencing and interpreting rock art sites, in
which both logic and intuition play a fundamental role. Primary focus is on
the post-glacial art in the north-west corner of Iberia, a region that is
particularly interesting for studying the relationship between imagery
making, natural environment and socio-cultural contexts because it is a
region where two major rock art traditions come together and may have
overlapped, in time, in the fouthth and third to the beginning of the second
millennia BCE. Inspired by the poetics of Kandinsky’s work, an effort is
made to reinforce the idea that thinking about different ‘modes of becoming’
may help to establish wider connections to other spheres, times and spaces
of human life.
Upping the ontological ante of Alfred Gell’s anthropology of art through a
focus on making
This chapter addresses the question of how to best explain anthropomorphic
and zoomorphic forms in the La Candelaria ceramic pot corpus from first
millennium CE north-west Argentina. It is argued that a formal analysis of
the ceramics along the lines proposed by Alfred Gell in his analysis of
Marquesan visual art has the potential to reveal underlying conceptual
principles that motivated their production. The claim is further made that
it is through a focus on the making of the ceramic forms that these
conceptual worlds can be accessed through the ceramics. A preliminary
analysis of the pots suggests a consistent concern with particular volumes
and their transformation, as well as an emphasis on the point of contact
where two volumes come together. Ultimately, ‘anthropomorphism’ can be
understood as less a descriptive term and more a conceptual placeholder for
the potential of the La Candelaria ceramics to reveal alternative worlds of
bodies and pots.
Cup-and-rings, cup-marks, penannulars and wavy lines are some of the main
motifs of Atlantic Rock Art’s iconography. These symbols were extensively
carved, during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Ages, in many regions across
Western Europe, including Britain, Ireland, Portugal and Spain. The
homogeneous morphology of the imagery was identified by a few authors in the
1950s, arguing for a common origin of the tradition, a suggestion never
systematically assessed. This chapter discusses the results of a research
project intended to investigate the unity of Atlantic Rock Art in western
Europe, through a multi-scalar and interdisciplinary methodology. It
provided an interesting insight into the making process and Atlantic Art’s
chaîne operatoire. The study demonstrated that there are many ways of
achieving a similar visual result and that many of these techniques and
other particularities of the designs are present simultaneously in distant
regions. Furthermore, it argued that only a process of intentional teaching
could explain the wide distribution of the carvings. The rock art of the
regions of the Machars Peninsula (Scotland) and Iveragh Peninsula (Co.
Kerry, Ireland) was studied in depth. Their similarities and differences
demonstrated that they maintained a strong connection with each other, but
also regional personalities.
RTI (Reflectance Transformation Imaging) is a synthetic imaging process often
used by archaeologists to reveal the hidden stratigraphy within artefacts.
This chapter explores the process of RTI as part of a contemporary art
practice. The author describes how the technique was manipulated and
distorted to generate complex narratives of sequencing and duration. The
process of creating these ‘dirty’ RTIs is discussed alongside the
exploration of earlier vision technologies such as metric photography.