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Dead bodies: the changing treatment of human remains in British museum collections and the challenge to the traditional model of the museum

Jenkins, Tiffany (2008) Dead bodies: the changing treatment of human remains in British museum collections and the challenge to the traditional model of the museum. Mortality, 13 (2). pp. 105-118. ISSN 1357-6275

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Abstract

The contestation over human remains in museum collections among indigenous groups, archaeologists, and museums that took place in the USA, Australasia, and Canada in the late 1980s developed more slowly in the UK. Law and codes of practise have now been passed to ensure the repatriation of human remains; the transfer to culturally affiliated groups is possible and accepted by the profession. This paper explores the influences on the construction of the contestation, to explain this development. Drawing on research for an ongoing study, this paper will first outline the influence of reparations thinking and a therapeutic ethos present in ideas in the politics of recognition. It is argued that the idea of human remains as a scientific resource holds less authority than the recognition of emotional claims for human remains from once colonized or disenfranchised communities. It is suggested that the museum profession has been receptive to claims for repatriation as a response to a crisis of legitimacy. Repatriation of human remains is part of a broader renegotiation of the basis of their authority. It is concluded that the traditional remit of the museum is questioned by these developments.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/13576275.as...
Additional Information: © 2008 Taylor & Francis
Library of Congress subject classification: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
Sets: Departments > Law
Rights: http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/usingTheLibrary/academicSupport/OA/depositYourResearch.aspx
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2010 09:42
URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/30109/

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