Death Drives, or Thinking with the Corpse

Date: October 18, 2018 -October 19, 2018
Time: 3:00pm - 4:30pm
Location: Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall - C105, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse

Thursday, October 18, 2018 – 3:00pm to Friday, October 19, 2018 – 4:30pm

Smith Warehouse, Ahmadieh Family Lecture Hall, Bay 4, C105


Anne Allison, Sinan Antoon, Elizabeth Davis, Robert Desjarlais, Harry Harootunian, Ranjana Khanna, Reza Negarestani (by Skype), Adam Rosenblatt, and Annabel Wharton


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.

This event is part of the Humanities Futures initiative @ the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Tentative schedule

Thursday, October 18, 2018

3:00pm-3:15pm: Introductions

3:15pm-3:45pm: Robert Desjarlais, “A Non-Place of Death: Image, Cadaver, Mourning, and State Violence in Paris, France”
3:45pm-4:00pm: Q&A

4:00pm-4:30pm: Elizabeth Davis, “Women’s Work and the Uneasy Dead: Burial, Exhumation, and Reburial in Greece and Cyprus”
4:30pm-4:45pm: Q&A

4:45pm-5:00pm: Break

5:00-5:30pm: Harry Harootunian, “Death and Work”
5:30-5:45pm: Q&A

5:45pm-6:00pm: Dinner
6:00pm-6:30pm: Film Screening: The Leopard, Isaac Julien (20 mins)
6:45pm-7:00pm: Dessert
7:00pm-7:30pm: Discussion of film

Friday, October 19, 2018

9:00am: Breakfast

9:30am-10:00am: Annabel Wharton, “Body Model” (as part of tgiFHI)
10:00-10:15am: Q&A

10:15am-10:45am: Reza Negarestani (via Skype), “The Psyche and the Carrion: A Note on Ferenczi’s Concept of the Alien Will”
10:45am-11:00am: Q&A

11:00-11:15am: Break

11:15am-11:45am: Ranjana Khanna, “Beside the Corpse”
11:45am-12:00pm: Q&A

12:00pm-12:30pm: Adam Rosenblatt, “Family, Humanitarianism, Care: Troubled Categories for Corpses”
12:30pm-12:45pm Q&A

12:45pm-1:45pm: Lunch

1:45pm-2:15pm: Sinan Antoon, “What does the Corpse Want?”
2:15pm-2:30pm: Q&A

2:30pm-3:00pm: Anne Allison, “Picking Up the Dead: Managing the Remains of Corpses in a Changing Japan”
3:00pm-3:15pm: Q&A

3:15pm-3:30pm: Coffee and tea and cake

3:30pm-4:00pm: Closing remarks by Jessica Covil and Anne Allison; discussion