The Family of Dead

Participant(s)  Eyal Weizman
Year  2011

The universalizing anthropology of Steichen's 1950s exhibition may well be challenged by the forensic anthropologists of today. For these scientists digging up grave sites, jungles, and killing fields in Spain, Guatemala, and Bosnia in search of the victims of state crime, classifications of images of the living from around the world are replaced with those of the dead.

Here, the study of bone and skull morphology becomes an epistemic and historiographic problem. Developments in the study of skulls, by means of algorithmic computing, have also led to another type of image/interpretation technique.

Face recognition software of the kind that connects skull morphology—the “topography of the face”—with actual or potential crime bares strange resemblances to phrenology, the 19th Century racial classification of skulls in relation to behavioral tendencies.

In both cases, physical anthropology poses urgent questions of aesthetic and political nature.

With Eyal Weizman, director of the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College, University of London

Conference organized as part of The Human Snapshot Symposium (2011)

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