Accepted Paper:

Whole body donation and dissection: the return of public anatomies as spectacles  


Claudia Merli (Uppsala University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents a shift from a reflection on the ethical aspects of body donation to a reflection on the ethics of fruition. What shall we think of the fascination of a sudden historical plunge into the Renaissance-like anatomy for beginners broadcasted in mediated forms nowadays?

Paper long abstract:

Between the fifteenth and sixteenth century, public anatomies were organised in Bologna and Padua, as public events attracting attendees beyond the medical schools. This practice eventually spread to other countries. Progressively removed from public view and increasingly segregated to the anatomical theatres of universities with the advent of modern medicine, dissection became a practice reserved to an audience of medical students. Two specific events of the last decade brought back public anatomies to a wider non-medical audience, in both mediated and theatrical form. The first is the pair of computerised cadavers of the Visible Human Project (called 'shades' by Csordas), the second the broadcasting by British Channel 4oD of four dissections performed by Gunther von Hagens. Dissected cadavers on TV, public anatomies via screen, not fictional, for a curious audience.

Panel P20
New immortalities: anthropological reflections on the procurement, transformation and use of human cadaveric tissue