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Performing fetal bodies

Posted Nov 05 2010 5:55am

The challenge of how to display fetal bodies was attacked from very different angles at the September conference .

Morten Skydsgaard introduced us to the exhibition The incomplete child, in which the idea was to show the deviant body in its own right. He emphasized the importance, especially in controversial displays, of giving the visitors time and space for reflection afterwards. Read Morten’s full abstract here .

The next speaker, Sniff Andersen Nexø , talked about the meeting between research and exhibition making, as a desirable but not unproblematic way of curating an exhibition. She pointed out that it’s a great challenge to translate the theoretically informed academic research process into a display of physical objects and a minimum of words. Read Sniff’s full abstract here .

Suzanne Anker , the last speaker of the session, focused on the fetal body as a politically charged icon. We exercise power in the ways we choose to represent images of the fetus. The same object — a fetus — presented in different contexts and through different images sends very different messages. From thankfulness for diminished childbirth related death rates and cheers for scientific progress to calls for anti-abortion legislation and critiques of the psychological impact of prenatal diagnostics for handicapped people. Read Suzanne’s full abstract here .

In the discussion afterwards, the question of whether or not museums have any responsibility for the way their fetal specimens are represented elsewhere, was raised. There were comments from Thomas Schnalke, Karen Ingham, Thomas Söderqvist, Kim Sawchuk, Nurin Veis, James Edmonson, Wendy Atkinson and Nina Czegledy.

See a list of the abstracts here . Read more about the EAMHMS video clip project here .

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