Death Drives, or Thinking with the Corpse
We will consider, in the conference, the corpse anthropologically, theoretically, and through the visual and literary arts to engage it as an object of serious inquiry. What does thinking with the corpse enable? And, given the different ways in which corpses are treated, could there be a theory, or an anthropology, of the corpse? Ambiguously and multiply constituted, the corpse has been the object of speculation (both economic and philosophical) from Aristotle to Freud, and beyond. And as matter that once contained, but no longer does, a member of a community, a family, a political unit-or its enemy-the corpse has been ritually honored and memorialized or brutally discarded, disposed of, and disappeared as warranting no recognition of any kind. The corpse is a material thing. Yet, as the remainder of someone once living, some believe it bears the presence of that life. That belief often results in different treatment of the corpse through burial, cremation, submersion, etc. As with the life that has moved from the body then, the corpse requires attention and care. The conference asks how we understand what is enabled by a relation to the corpse variously as object of speculation, model for medical investigation, as evidence of a crime or a triumph, as the remains of someone loved or hated, or as an insignificant thing.
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