Issue 8.1 of Human Remains and Violence is the second part of a double issue investigating the treatment of corpses in the time of COVID-19.
It was during the early stages of the first lockdown that the editors realised the methods they had developed over five years of publishing the journal could be usefully put to work in analysing the crisis. Health systems and funerary companies were facing unprecedented challenges, while families were suffering the double tragedy of losing loved ones and not being able to properly mourn them. Human Remains and Violence focuses on outbreaks of mass violence and their aftermath, but its approaches to the treatment of human remains were beginning to seem increasingly, and shockingly, relevant.
The double issue, titled ‘Burial and the politics of dead bodies in times of COVID-19’, is guest-edited by Gaëlle Clavandier (Université Jean-Monnet Saint-Etienne), Graham Denyer Willis (University of Cambridge) and Finn Stepputat (Danish Institute for International Studies), three experts in mourning, funerals and the treatment of corpses in peacetime. The articles in part two, written by an international group of scholars, approach the pandemic from a variety of angles. They offer case studies from present-day Brazil, Mexico and Arizona, as well as a historical study of New York’s massed grave site on Hart Island. The issue concludes with reviews of Fabien Provost’s Les mots de la morgue and Christos Lynteris and Nicholas H. A. Evans’s Histories of Post-Mortem Contagion.
Together, the articles demonstrate how the focus on cadavers in times of mass death can serve as a key tool in studying COVID-19. Among other things, they shed light on how necropolitics shapes death rituals and how forensic personnel cope with the dehumanising impact of COVID-19 protocols, as well as exploring the effects of unregulated deathcare industries and of cycles of remembering and forgetting.
Part one was published in November 2021.