Partible Persons or Persons Apart: Postmortem Interventions at the Spring Street Presbyterian Church, Manhattan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

7 Scopus citations

Abstract

This chapter focuses on three individuals whose anatomized remains were recovered from burial vaults associated with an abolitionist church in Manhattan. Active between 1820 and 1850, the vaults contained the remains of some 200 individuals. Only three—an adult, an infant, and an adolescent—displayed evidence of postmortem intervention. The adult and infant were likely subjected to autopsies, relatively private procedures that only briefly interrupted the funerary process. The adolescent, by contrast, was probably dissected, and thus objectified in a public spectacle that dismembered the body and transformed the cranium into a teaching specimen. Yet remains of all three individuals were interred together, alongside other members of the congregation. These cases shed light on societal changes taking place during a period of rapid urbanization, when the makings of race and class, gender and life course, self and other were intertwined with the variable processing and positioning of human bodies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBioarchaeology and Social Theory
PublisherSpringer Nature
Pages87-111
Number of pages25
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017

Publication series

NameBioarchaeology and Social Theory
ISSN (Print)2567-6776
ISSN (Electronic)2567-6814

Keywords

  • Autopsy
  • Craniotomy
  • Dissection
  • New York City
  • Nineteenth century

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Gender Studies
  • Urban Studies

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