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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

TESTING THE MANIFESTATION OF THE MEDICAL GAZE IN THE USE OF HUMAN SKELETAL REMAINS IN A UNIVERSITY SETTING

Abstract

In many institutional settings, human remains are used as teaching tools to facilitate the learning of human anatomy and forensic analytical methods. This consistent handling of human material may possibly correlate with high manifestations of what Michele Foucault named “the medical gaze” in institutions of higher learning. This study uses questionnaires and interviews, in both student and faculty populations at Kennesaw State University, to test individual opinions in how ethical it is to assume ownership over collections of human remains. Questions asked were related to participants’ perspectives towards current issues in anthropology, such as if human remains have personhood after death, who possesses authority over these remains, and who is qualified to handle them. The population consisted of both anthropology and non-anthropology students and faculty (N=127). Overall, regardless of anthropological affiliation or education-level, participants on average felt neutral towards the general use of human remains in an academic setting. However, in general, the anthropology population tended to believe that dead individuals do not possesses authority over their body and if a need for these remains presents itself, it should be fulfilled. Lastly, faculty and students, who had utilized human remains in multiple educational settings, tended to display higher manifestations of the medical gaze. The findings for this study are interesting because anthropologists are trained to be culturally sensitive and outstanding global citizens, however the results demonstrate that in the context of human osteology and studying human remains, those ethical principles are negated.

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