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N. J. Enfield and Paul Kockelman

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190457204

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190457204.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2020. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 18 January 2020

The Agency of the Dead

The Agency of the Dead

Chapter:
(p.181) Chapter 19 The Agency of the Dead
Source:
Distributed Agency
Author(s):

Zoë Crossland

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190457204.003.0019

Human remains are often thematized as agentive within the mass-market literature on forensic anthropology. Corpses are said to speak or testify and to tell the truth about what took place in the past. This chapter considers how the corpse’s agency is imagined in these texts and explores how a semiotic analysis might contribute to understanding the power of this image. As an ontologically ambiguous entity that appears simultaneously as a thing and as a person, the dead body provides a productive site for thinking about how agency operates in relation to people and things. Particularly in moments when the corpse is found outside of its proper place in the tomb, it seems to harbor some kind of problematic animacy that may be expressed through hauntings, dreams, or, as this chapter shows, through a language of science and evidence.

Keywords:   human remains, agency, forensic anthropology, semiotic, evidence

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