Open Access (free)
The processing of remains in Catholic circles
Francesca Sbardella

In the Catholic areas of Europe, the human remains (both their bones and the fabrics they touched) of persons considered to have been exceptional are usually stored for transformation into relics. The production and the reproduction of the object-relic takes place within monasteries and is carried out firstly on the material level. In this article I intend to present in detail, from an anthropological standpoint, the practices used to process such remains, the role of the social actors involved and the political-ecclesiastical dynamics connected with them. Owing to obvious difficulties in accessing enclosed communities, such practices are usually overlooked in historiographical and ethno-anthropological analyses, while they should instead be considered the most important moment in the lengthy process intended to give form and meaning to remains, with a view to their exhibition and use in ritual.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
John Albanese
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Two case studies
Florence Carré, Aminte Thomann, and Yves-Marie Adrian

In Normandy, near Rouen, in Tournedos-sur-Seine and Val-de-Reuil, two adult skeletons thrown into wells during the Middle Ages have been studied. The wells are located at two separate sites just 3 km apart. Both sites consist of clustered settlements inhabited from the seventh to the tenth century and arranged around a cemetery. The backfill of the well shafts contains animal remains, but also partially or completely articulated human bodies. In Val-de-Reuil, the incomplete skeleton of a man, probably representing a secondary deposition, had traces of a violent blow on the skull, certainly with a blunt weapon. In Tournedos-sur-Seine, a woman thrown in headfirst had several impact points and bone fractures on the skull that could have been caused by perimortem mistreatment or a violent death. After a detailed description of the two finds and a contextualisation in the light of similar published cases, we will discuss the possible scenarios for the death and deposition of the individuals as well as their place in their communities.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
France and its war dead in 1914 and 1915
Adrien Douchet, Taline Garibian, and Benoît Pouget

The aim of this article is to shed light on the conditions under which the funerary management of human remains was carried out by the French authorities during the early years of the First World War. It seeks to understand how the urgent need to clear the battlefield as quickly as possible came into conflict with the aspiration to give all deceased an individualised, or at the very least dignified, burial. Old military funerary practices were overturned and reconfigured to incorporate an ideal that sought the individual identification of citizen soldiers. The years 1914–15 were thus profoundly marked by a clash between the pragmatism of public health authorities obsessed with hygiene, the infancy of emerging forensic science, the aching desire of the nation to see its children buried individually and various political and military imperatives related to the conduct of the war.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
The case of the management of the dead related to COVID-19
Ahmed Al-Dawoody

This article studies one of the humanitarian challenges caused by the COVID-19 crisis: the dignified handling of the mortal remains of individuals that have died from COVID-19 in Muslim contexts. It illustrates the discussion with examples from Sunni Muslim-majority states when relevant, such as Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Morocco and Pakistan, and examples from English-speaking non-Muslim majority states such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and Australia as well as Sri Lanka. The article finds that the case of the management of dead bodies of people who have died from COVID-19 has shown that the creativity and flexibility enshrined in the Islamic law-making logic and methodology, on the one hand, and the cooperation between Muslim jurists and specialised medical and forensic experts, on the other, have contributed to saving people’s lives and mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Muslim contexts.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Marie Daugey

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, in the Kabye country, some heads of enemies – those of men foreign to the group – were buried in a mound of earth referred to as hude, meaning ‘manure’. In each locality, this mound is situated inside a wooded sanctuary where the spirit of the mythical founding ancestor resides. In order to understand this practice, this article examines how it fitted within the overall logic of the male initiation cycle, contextualising it in relation to past and present practices. Because it was a highly ambivalent element of the bush, the head of an enemy renewed the generative power of this original ‘manure’ prodigiously, so as to ensure the group’s survival in their land. The burial of the heads of strangers appears to be an initiatory variant of other forms of mastery of the ambivalence of wild forces, entrusted in other African societies to the chief and his waste heap.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Anne Kerr, Choon Key Chekar, Emily Ross, Julia Swallow, and Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Chapter 7 considers non-participation and exclusions as well as reservation, consternation and rejections around genomic medicine in our research and in the public sphere more generally. We investigate the particular social and cultural contexts in which disengagement and resistance are generated. Exploring negative views and experiences or simply a lack of response to genomic medicine, we consider when these kinds of personalised medicine are ‘not relevant to us’ and why some people just do not have the capacity or resource to engage with them. Rejecting or refusing opportunities to engage with genomic medicine also results from the awareness of competing priorities such as health equality or preventive healthcare as well as a commitment to other forms of care. Not every patient can or wants to craft their own treatment pathways, or looks to the future with a sense of agency and control, and we reflect on what it means to opt out, be excluded or feel left behind by these kinds of research and care. We also discuss the ways in which different agencies and actors strive to tackle disengagement by reaching out to different communities to appeal to their sense of responsibility towards contributing to the prospects of better care for individuals and community now and in the future. We argue that these practices present an important counterpoint to the dominant, inclusive vision of P4 medicine, particularly with regard to personalisation and participation.

in Personalised cancer medicine
Gene-expression profiling in early-stage breast cancer
Anne Kerr, Choon Key Chekar, Emily Ross, Julia Swallow, and Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Chapter 2 explores the promise of prediction and prevention of recurrence in personalised medicine for some kinds of breast cancer through the case of a genomic technique already widely adopted within the NHS across the UK: gene-expression profiling. We consider a genomic test, Oncotype DX, which seeks to identify, among early breast cancer patients, those who would or would not benefit from chemotherapy to prevent future recurrence. The aim here is to limit exposure to chemotherapy, which can be toxic and debilitating. The test was promoted to the health service, practitioners and patients as a means of prediction and prevention, including via practitioners’ and patients’ contributions to processes of regulatory and clinical decision making surrounding the test. Considering how the test was envisaged as a benefit to the NHS and to patients in policy, practitioner and patient accounts of their experiences of decision making regarding chemotherapy, we explore how it fitted in with already complex cancer experiences and hopes for a cancer-free future. We look at how the narrative that the test offers reassurance and prediction came to dominate policy, but also consider situations where prediction and prevention were more contingent and provisional, particularly in the context of clinical encounters.

in Personalised cancer medicine
Open Access (free)
Participation to build the bioeconomy
Anne Kerr, Choon Key Chekar, Emily Ross, Julia Swallow, and Sarah Cunningham-Burley

Chapter 5 is about large-scale national studies, recruiting patients with a range of cancers to collect extensive molecular information about cancer and ultimately inform routine patient care via precision medicine. We focus on Genomics England’s 100,000 Genomes Project. After discussing the rise of these mass-participation initiatives and their strong national imaginaries of economic development and cutting-edge healthcare, we explore how practitioners, patients and families made sense of participation, and how this related to their investments in particular institutions and futures. We explore the participatory logic of these initiatives, and the ways in which informed consent processes and genomic literacy agendas were developed and enacted to increase participation. We contrast efforts to improve genomic literacy and informed consent by clearly demarcating personal benefits in terms of improved care from the research dividend to the NHS, but with blurred boundaries in practice. Patients and family members were seeking care through participation and reworking efforts to improve their understanding to establish their worth as a patient and ensure optimal, personalised care into the future. We explore how this was managed by professionals to meet the aims of the programme despite their reservations about its value and implications.

in Personalised cancer medicine