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Controlling the dead : an analysis of the collecting and repatriation of aboriginal human remains

Controlling the dead : an analysis of the collecting and repatriation of aboriginal human remains
Controlling the dead : an analysis of the collecting and repatriation of aboriginal human remains

Australian Aboriginal human remains were widely procured during the colonial era for scientific research conducted within the race paradigm. The history of the collecting and interpretation of these remains was embedded within, and contributed to, power relations between the West and Australia's indigenes. The study of Aboriginal remains reified pre-existing concepts of racial hierarchy by constructing the Aboriginal body as inferior to that of the European and, in doing so, contributed to what has been termed 'Aboriginalism', a mode of discourse which constructs, guides and constrains European knowledge about the 'Aborigines'. A 'social history' of collected human remains - from their initial collection to their repatriation to Aboriginal communities - reveals how these items have accumulated layers of meaning and are invested with power, a power intricately linked with knowledge and the construction of identity(ies). This power and the integral association of Aboriginal human remains with the identity(ies) of those groups which contest their ownership is shown to lie at the core of the reburial issue and contributes to how the return of ancestral remains has impacted upon Aboriginal people.

The examination and analysis of the procurement, interpretation and repatriation of Aboriginal human remains, supported by a detailed case study of one major British collection and the remains of two known individuals, fills a distinct gap in the historical record. It also contributes to an understanding within the academy of the contemporary significance of human remains for Aborigines, scientists and the relationship between the two.

University of Southampton
Fforde, Cressida
Fforde, Cressida

Fforde, Cressida (1997) Controlling the dead : an analysis of the collecting and repatriation of aboriginal human remains. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

Australian Aboriginal human remains were widely procured during the colonial era for scientific research conducted within the race paradigm. The history of the collecting and interpretation of these remains was embedded within, and contributed to, power relations between the West and Australia's indigenes. The study of Aboriginal remains reified pre-existing concepts of racial hierarchy by constructing the Aboriginal body as inferior to that of the European and, in doing so, contributed to what has been termed 'Aboriginalism', a mode of discourse which constructs, guides and constrains European knowledge about the 'Aborigines'. A 'social history' of collected human remains - from their initial collection to their repatriation to Aboriginal communities - reveals how these items have accumulated layers of meaning and are invested with power, a power intricately linked with knowledge and the construction of identity(ies). This power and the integral association of Aboriginal human remains with the identity(ies) of those groups which contest their ownership is shown to lie at the core of the reburial issue and contributes to how the return of ancestral remains has impacted upon Aboriginal people.

The examination and analysis of the procurement, interpretation and repatriation of Aboriginal human remains, supported by a detailed case study of one major British collection and the remains of two known individuals, fills a distinct gap in the historical record. It also contributes to an understanding within the academy of the contemporary significance of human remains for Aborigines, scientists and the relationship between the two.

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Published date: 1997

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 463281
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/463281
PURE UUID: d24713f9-b62a-4222-b6af-302d0ec2f1d2

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Date deposited: 04 Jul 2022 20:48
Last modified: 04 Jul 2022 21:48

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Contributors

Author: Cressida Fforde

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