Dead MatterThe Meaning of Iconic Corpses

Dead MatterThe Meaning of Iconic Corpses

Margaret Schwartz

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780816694334

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press


An Iconography of the Flesh theorizes the relationship between the body and the image by looking at the corpse as a special instance of a body that is both thing and representation. Unlike sociological or anthropological studies of death and funerary practice, this work takes as its starting point the special role of the photograph in modern mourning practices, particularly those surrounding public figures. Arguing that the evolving cultural understanding of photographic realism structures our relationship to the corpse, the book outlines a new politics of representation in which some bodies are more visible (and vulnerable) in death than others. An Iconography of the Flesh ultimately argues that death without a body is specific to the capitalist mode of social reproduction and its attendant alienation of meaningful representations of death in favor of ghostly figures of bare life that reflect the exploitation of those whose bodies are considered expendable.