Nafte, “Institutional Bodies”

Nafte, Myriam. 2015. Institutional Bodies: Spatial Agency and the Dead. History & Anthropology 26(2): 206-233. 

Abstract: In this paper, I argue that the Catholic Church and Western medicine assumed historically significant roles in the use and circulation of human remains and, in so doing, established distinct traditions of dissection, preservation, and display. Furthermore, both institutions still maintain an essential role in making human remains ever more popular and culturally acceptable. The Church and Western medicine uphold various means of interaction that effectively keep the dead undisposed for specific purposes: as forms of cultural capital, objects of veneration, and fetishized, or aestheticized diversion. As such, the institutionalized dead have come to inhabit very particular spaces where they are made to perform a variety of duties for the living.