The Bodies Exhibitions

Within much of the literature we’ve read has been emphasis or at least mention of people’s bodies being on display. We find it in Zulus with Alice Acitophel, Fortune’s Bones, Medical Apartheid, and Zone One. We find the body on display outside of literature too, as for example in the Body Worlds exhibit which shows off preserved corpses for the sake of education. In all of these cases, there has been a clear lack of consent—Alice did not consent to having her body displayed by the rebels, Fortune did not consent to being placed in a museum, those whose bodies were used in Medical Apartheid often did so without consent and especially without informed consent, and the stragglers’ bodies were used by the uninfected for entertainment (102), and body parts were also displayed for entertainment (6).

Outside of the literature, the Body Worlds exhibit, like its competitor BODIES… The Exhibition uses bodies of people who had not consented to be used in this way. Many of the bodies used by Body Worlds are thought to have been from the remains of (non-consenting) “homeless people, prisoners and indigent hospital patients.” BODIES… The Exhibition outright admits to using bodies that came from non-willing donors. When we see a clear connection between the present use of unwilling bodies in the two educational exhibitions, and the non-consensual treatment of black bodies in Medical Apartheid, we can be safe in assuming that it isn’t an accident that the black authors of Zulus, Fortune’s Bones, and Zone One all include bodies being forcefully placed on display. This common theme throughout the works invites some difficult questions, especially this: Even if bodies are placed on display for educational purposes as in Body Worlds and BODIES… The Exhibition, is there more lost through the exploitation of unwilling bodies than what is gained through public education?  

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