Cornell University

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Science & Technology Studies Seminar - Jay Aronson, Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, November 20, 2017 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

701 Clark Hall

Who Owns the Dead? The Science and Politics of Death at Ground Zero

I will discuss efforts to recover and identify the remains of victims from the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, as well as the profound impact that human remains had on the redevelopment of the site and the creation of the memorial there. I will demonstrate that the forensic recovery effort cannot be understood simply on scientific grounds because it was at its heart a political and moral statement. I will examine the challenges of dealing with politically significant deaths for families of the victims, for those charged with memorializing them, and for government officials managing the recovery effort. I will also explore ongoing legal and cultural disputes about who ought to have a say in memorialization efforts and disposition of unidentified remains—or to put it another way, who owns the dead. I will conclude by arguing that the New York City Medical Examiner’s promise to continue efforts to reattach a name to all World Trade Center remains in perpetuity has had profound impacts, both positive and negative, on families and the recovery effort. 

Event Type

Lecture, Seminar


Science and Technology Studies


sts, cas, cashum, 9/11, Law and Society, cascal



Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Trina Garrison

Contact Phone



Jay Aronson

Speaker Affiliation

Department of History, Carnegie Mellon University

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