Friday, April 15, 2011

How can 'Body Worlds' displays be so widely celebrated?

Emily Clark

The 'Body Worlds' exhibits, which have been on display since 1995, are now the most widely viewed exhibition in the world. Anthropologist Jane Desmond has recently been tackling the question of why. Beyond mere toleration, the exhibit has accrued extraordinary amounts of enthusiasm alongside some controversies. How has this been accomplished? Why do people enjoy it so much? Desmond explains that the way the display is put together grounds the bodies in a context of legitimacy and science - in an effort to inspire wonder rather than discomfort in the visitor. They aren’t seen to be people at all. Because the process of ‘plastination’ removes all identifying features from the person (hair, skin, body fat), they are seen as specimens rather than individuals. No cause of death is ever discernible either. The background, walls covered in images of historical anatomy labs, quotes from philosophers and Renaissance prints, soothes the viewer by saying that to learn from the dead is an honorable and acceptable practice. Plaques thank the people who donated their bodies and ensure that they were given voluntarily. The exhibit was clearly composed in a way that would minimize visitors’ unease, and it has apparently been a truly effective method. 

Reference: "Anthropologist: 'Body Worlds' visitors confront bodies but not death." Science Daily. Web. Feb 7 2011. 
blog comments powered by Disqus

TuftScope: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Health, Ethics, and Policy

TuftScope is a student journal published biannually in conjunction with Tufts University since 2001. Funding is provided by the Tufts Community Union Senate. The opinions expressed on this weblog are solely those of the authors. The staff reserves the right to edit blog postings for clarity and to remove nonfunctional links.

  © Free Blogger Templates Autumn Leaves by 2008

Back to TOP