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.