Teaching Resources

Anthropology of the Dead Body: The Corpse in Theory, Action, and Literature

A good read, like a good song, reminds you of where you were and who you were with when you first experienced it. On that note, I am grateful to my mentors for their kind guidance in pushing me to think critically about the dead body; their interrogation of “When is the dead body just a dead body, just a dead body?” rings throughout this syllabus.

The compilation of readings on the dead body is never ending and therefore, the syllabus I post here remains unfinished. As it stands, it is an ambitious 9-week introduction to the dead body by way of an archaeological understanding of material culture, a philosophical engagement with biopolitics, and a science studies approach to knowledge production.

What is missing from this 10-week undergraduate course?

What readings would you put on this syllabus?

What resources, films, or activities would you add to enhance the students’ understanding of the course readings?

Anthropology of the Dead Body

If you are unable to view or download the embedded syllabus, you can also find it here.

Rachel Carmen Ceasar is a doctoral candidate in the Joint Medical Anthropology Program at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. Her research focuses on contemporary Spain and Morocco as a lens through which we may come to understand how people deal with the aftermath of war and repression. More specifically, she examines the archaeological exhumation of mass graves as a tangible form of social justice in post-Civil War and post-dictatorship Spain. For her next project, she will investigate the unmarked graves of Berber war corpses that remain in Spain today as a critical aspect of the historical and contemporary tensions between Spain, Morocco, and Berber Morocco. 

5 replies on “Anthropology of the Dead Body: The Corpse in Theory, Action, and Literature”

Hi Rachel. This looks fantastic! If you want to incorporate some historical themes, you might consider the following:
Michael Sappol, A traffic in dead bodies
Elizabeth Hurren, Dying for Victorian medicine

Good luck with the class! Graham

Hi Rachel,
This looks like a fascinating class! Perhaps of interest: I have a chapter in a recent edited volume that deals with religious charisma & the dead body in Catholic Sainthood, and Yoram Bilu also has a chapter that deals with the posthumous charisma of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.
(The Anthropology of Religious Charisma: Ecstasies and Institutions
Edited by Charles Lindholm)

Hi Rachel,

What a great idea for a course!

I love that you’ve got lots of readings to highlight the visualization and “visiblizing” of dead bodies (makes apparent how they’re not just subject to erasure, and helps us think about the triangulation–rather than supersession–of foulcauldian modes of power).

Alan Klima’s Funeral Casino would be a great addition on that front.

Also, what about Jonathan Parry’s work on about Aghori ascetics’ efforts at manipulating time through their special (and maybe literal) companionship with corpses? His piece in < a href=""Death and the Regeneration of Life might do the trick.

You need something by a bioarchaeologist. Take a look at: The Body as Material Culture: A Theoretical Osteoarchaeology
by: Joanna R. Sofaer

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