Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: https://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.498836
Title: The crisis of cultural authority in museums : contesting human remains in the collections of Britain
Author: Jenkins, Tiffany
ISNI:       0000 0000 4580 3879
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2008
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Abstract:
Museums in Britain have displayed and researched human remains since the eighteenth century. However, in the last two decades human remains in collections have become subject to claims and controversies. Firstly, human remains associated with acquisition during the colonial period have become increasingly difficult to retain and have been transfered to culturally affiliated overseas indigenous groups. Secondly, a group of British Pagans have formed to make claims on ancient human remains in collections. Thirdly, human remains that are not requested by any community group, and of all ages, have become the focus of concerns expressed about their treatment by members of the profession. A discourse arguing for 'respect' has emerged, which argues that all human remains should be treated with new care. The claims made on human remains have been vigourously but differentially contested by members of the sector, who consider the human remains to be unique research objects. This thesis charts the influences at play on the contestation over human remains and examines its construction. The academic literature tends to understand changes to museums as a result of external factors. This thesis argues that this problem is influenced by a crisis of legitimacy and establishes that there are strong internal influences. Through a weak social constructionist approach I demonstrate that the issue has been promoted by influential members of the sector as part of a broader attempt to distance themselves from their foundational role, as a consequence of a crisis of cultural authority stimulated by external and internal factors. The symbolic character of human remains in locating this problem is informed by the unique properties of dead bodies and is influenced by the significance of the body as a scientific object; its association with identity work and as a site of political struggle, in the high modem period.
Supervisor: Furedi, Frank Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.498836  DOI:
Keywords: H Social Sciences
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