‘Just remember that death is not the end’: The Agency of the Dead in Popular Culture
The dead are inanimate body remains and to all intents and purposes, they lack power, control or a voice. They are a life that has ended. They have shifted from one state of being to another. But death is not that simple. The dead can, and do have agency despite their demise. They are able to influence and alter the world. Death, I will suggest is not the end. This presentation will focus on how popular cultural portrayals of the dead renders death accessible to consumers and I will explore how the dead, in their various forms, wield agency. Death in popular culture will be proposed as a dynamic realm from which the dead can engage the living, forming a morbid space where mortality can be explored, questioned and reimagined by scholar and layman alike. The concept of morbid sensibility is used to illustrate how individuals and society become open to deliberating mortality within popular culture. Drawing upon popular culture examples of the dead including the celebrity dead, organ transplantation mythology, the Undead (zombies and vampires), and the authentic dead, the multiple routes of influence exerted by representations of death will be examined. The dead may have travelled to the ‘undiscovered country’ but they can still be mobilised amongst the living.
Dr Ruth Penfold-Mounce
Department of Sociology, University of York
People of the revolution: archaeological skeletal investigations
Studying archaeological human skeletal remains of those long dead enables us to endeavour to chronicle the lives of these people. They have a tangible resonance from the times in which they lived and died capturing our imagination wanting to know more about their lives. The Museum of London is very fortunate to curate extensive skeletal collections which provide considerable scope for being able to tell numerous stories of the people interwoven throughout London’s history. This presentation will examine some of these people’s stories and how using modern imaging techniques on London and non-metropolitan skeletal collections, they can inform with the synthesis of data in unlocking details about the impact of industrialisation on London health.
Curator of Human Osteology, Centre for Human Bioarchaeology, Museum of London