Rumours of bones and the remembrance of an exterminated people in Newfoundland - the emotive immateriality of human remains
This chapter tells the story of the Beothuk people in Newfoundland, hunter-gatherers indigenous to this northern island. The Europeans, mostly English and Irish, came in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the coming of the settlers the Beothuk dwindled and finally, in 1829 they were declared extinct. The exact cause of this extinction is still debated, but there is no doubt that the ancestors of many of those still living in Newfoundland were the agents of extermination of a people, whether by disease or genocidal violence. Since their extermination Beothuk bones emerged from the earth and were sometimes taken away and stored and displayed in museums in Newfoundland, Edinburgh and elsewhere. These bones still exist, now withdrawn from display, but intermittently receiving the attention of oesteoarchaeologists and physical anthropologists, as well as a handful of activists petitioning for their return. This chapter addresses the capacity of bones to speak, to give testimony and, in giving testimony, to make “old acts indelible”. How do these bones trouble and haunt contemporary articulations of settler identity and our ethical engagement with the absent presence of those who have been violently dispossessed?
John Harries, Linda Fibiger, Joan Smith, Tal Adler, and Anna Szöke
This article will query the ethics of making and displaying photographs of human
remains. In particular, we will focus on the role of photography in constituting
human remains as specimens, and the centrality of the creation and circulation
of photographic images to the work of physical anthropology and bioarchaeology.
This work has increasingly become the object of ethical scrutiny, particularly
in the context of a (post)colonial politics of recognition in which indigenous
people seek to recover dominion over their looted material heritage, including
the remains of their dead. This ethical concern extends to the question of how
and under what circumstances we may display photographs of human remains.
Moreover, this is not just a matter of whether and when we should or should not
show photographs of the remains of the dead. It is a question of how these
images are composed and produced. Our discussion of the ethics of the image is,
therefore, indivisible from a consideration of the socio-technical process by
which the photographic image is produced, circulated and consumed.