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.