Wednesday, September 2, 2015

customs of bodies; body parts

Current technology allows matching of body parts to bodies and their kin, but customs still play a leading role in assigning significance to the physical fabric of personhood.

For centuries in Europe, some aristocrats had their bodies dismembered after death, in an echo of the practice of separating and distributing the body parts of Christian saints. Galileo's finger was removed from his hand 95 years after he died, and ended up in a science museum. Chopin's heart was separated from the rest of his body and buried in Poland. This veneration of limbs occasionally made its way Stateside, as well: Stonewall Jackson's arm has its own memorial.