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Disturbing Bodies

Perspectives on Forensic Anthropology

Edited by Zoë Crossland and Rosemary A. Joyce

As bodies are revealed, so are hidden and often incommensurate understandings of the body after death. The theme of “disturbing bodies” has a double valence, evoking both the work that anthropologists do and also the ways in which the dead can, in turn, disturb the living through their material qualities, through dreams and other forms of presence, and through the political claims often articulated around them. These may include national or ethnic narratives that lay claims to bodies, personal memories and histories maintained by relatives, or the constitution of the corpse through performative acts of exhumation, display, and analysis. At the center of this work are forensic anthropologists. Although often considered narrowly in terms of its technical and methodological aspects, forensic practice draws upon multiple dimensions of anthropology, and this volume offers a range of anthropological perspectives on the work of exhumation and the attendant issues.

2015. 244 pp., notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Serrin Boys, Zoë Crossland, Luis Fondebrider, Pamela Geller, Rosemary A. Joyce, Debra Martin, Isaias Rojas-Perez, Tim Thompson, Hugh Tuller, Heather Walsh-Haney

“Crossland and Joyce draw into conversation diverse scholars whose theories and practices gather around the dead. Even as human remains from both the recent and the distant past are subjected to “forensic” investigation, the body as a material reality has defied analysis within any narrow disciplinary domain. By tracing the many ways in which the dead activate wider social and material relations, these essays generate exciting opportunities for creative engagements and unexpected encounters. The reader will find no consensus here, but an exchange of views that is timely, adventurous, and provocative.”
—Shannon A. Novak, Syracuse University, author of House of Mourning: A Biocultural History of the Mountain Meadows Massacre

“This collection of ten essays … is an original contribution to the forensic anthropology–archaeology literature, as it offers a well-grounded position that tries to understand forensic endeavours as part of the wider social, political, and cultural networks they are part of. At the heart of the volume lies the attempt to highlight the limitations of forensic anthropology, to dismantle the illusion of an objective, straightforward, and universal methodology that can unlock the ‘truth’. … Overall, through the themes raised and the methodological approach, this collection should be a ‘must read’ for any practitioner dealing with dead bodies, as it takes one outside the comfort of established methodologies, and into the wider world.”
—Alexandra Ion, Institute of Anthropology “Francisc I. Rainer” of the Romanian Academy, European Journal of Archaeology 19, no. 3 (2016)

Disturbing Bodies is an exceptional start to a conversation about anthropological work with human remains. Intradisciplinary and introspective, it challenges anthropologists to (re)consider how, why, and the ultimate professional and personal consequences of this work. Echoing and expanding Martin (Chapter 9, p. 168), this volume is ‘essential reading’ for anthropologists and would generate important discussion in forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology, and mortuary archaeology courses or any advanced anthropology seminar.”
—Ginesse A. Listi, Louisiana State University, American Antiquity, published online, August 27, 2019


  1. Anthropological Perspectives on Disturbing Bodies: An Introduction
    Zoë Crossland and Rosemary A. Joyce
  2. Forensic Anthropology and the Investigation of Political Violence: Notes from the Field
    Luis Fondebrider
  3. Unearthing Ongoing Pasts: Forensic Anthropology, State Making, and Justice Making in Postwar Peru
    Isaias Rojas-Perez
  4. Deconstructing the Ideal of Standardization in Forensic Anthropology
    Tim Thompson
  5. Identification Versus Prosecution: Is It That Simple, and Where Should the Archaeologist Stand?
    Hugh Tuller
  6. Writing Forensic Anthropology: Transgressive Representations
    Zoë Crossland
  7. Creating the Biological Profile: The Question of Race and Ancestry
    Heather Walsh-Haney and Serrin Boys
  8. Hybrid Lives, Violent Deaths: “Seminoles” in the Samuel G. Morton Cranial Collection
    Pamela L. Geller
  9. Excavating for Truths: Forensic Anthropology and Bioarchaeology as Ways of Making Meaning from Skeletal Evidence
    Debra L. Martin
  10. Grave Responsibilities: Encountering Human Remains
    Rosemary A. Joyce


There are no working papers for this book at the present time.