Emerging Opportunities and Challenges in Forensic Biohistory

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Presented in the session “Boundary Bodies: Critically Thinking the Body in Contemporary Osteoarchaeology.” The last 10 years have seen an increase in high-profile historical forensic cases in the popular press, an area of investigation called forensic biohistory. This area typically involves effort to positively identify the famous dead (such as the case Richard III), of to characterize matters of facts surrounding famous historical remains (Mozart’s cause of death) or historical events (such as the Donner party and the Mountain Meadows Massacre in the Western United States), forensic biohistory remains undertheorized and under-considered as a locus of investigation in its own right. Such consideration is worthwhile however because forensic biohistory offers a unique opportunity for anthropologists to engage the public. Bodies of the famous dead serve as boundary objects through which various interested parties (including scientists) intersect. This potential is, however, coupled with a unique set of ethical challenges that researches must face because frequently we are asked to serve as arbiters and judges of the validity of narratives surrounding the bodies in question. In the presentation we discuss forensic biohistory as a district area of research and highlight some of the potential opportunities and challenges that define it as a whole.


Barcelona, Spain

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