Human Remains on the Move

Violent Contexts, Institutional Travels, and the Global Afterlives of the Dead

The conference takes a look at the long history of circulation of human remains across many ‘scientific’ and heritage settings. We look at their historical and contemporary travels to - and from – research institutions, collections and museums. The objective is to interrogate the politics behind these travels and their implications for thinking about the complex ontology of human remains. Taking as a vantage point postcolonial and decolonial debates around repatriation of human remains, we trace the routes through which dead bodies travelled to those institutions – and the contexts of their deaccession. At the same time, we attend to the very material and political and affective presence of the human remains on the move between private and public bodies, between the formerly colonized to the colonizers (and back), and between global museums devoted to political violence in contexts other than colonial, including the Holocaust and the atomic bombing of Japan.


Institute of Culture Studies and Theater History, Austrian Academy of Sciences, ERC project Globalised Memory Museums

Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI)

Penn State University

Concept: Zuzanna Dziuban (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Ran Zwigenberg (Penn State)

Please click here to open the folder with further information.



15:00-16:15 Session I

Éva Kovács (VWI) | Opening words

Zuzanna Dziuban (Austrian Academy of Sciences) | Introductory remarks

Sophie Schasiepen (University of the Western Cape) | People Made into Objects: Academic Collections of Human Remains and the Production of Capital

Christopher Heaney (Penn State) | Andean Ancestors and the Global History of Human Remains

Kelly Hyberger (Filson Historical Society) | Reckoning and Repatriation: Indigenous Remains in US Museums

Chair: Ran Zwigenberg (Penn State)

16:15-16:30 Coffee break

16:30-17:30 Session II

Gudrun Rath (University of Art and Design Linz) | The Return of Ataï: ‘Science’, Skulls, Ongoing Struggles

Zuzanna Dziuban (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Ran Zwigenberg (Penn State) | Holocaust Ashes on the Move: Incinerated Human Remains in Global Memorial Museums

Éva Kovács and Kinga Frojimovics (Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies) | Online exhibition Wiesenthal in Linz

Chair: Ljiljana Radonić (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

17:30-17:45 Coffee break

17:45-19:00 Panel Discussion (with all presenters)

Moderator: Zuzanna Dziuban

* Cover Image: WIlh. Greve [Lithographer], “The Bay and Necropolis of Ancón,” from Wilhelm Reiss and Alphons Stübel, The Necropolis of Ancon in Peru: A Contribution to Our Knowledge of the Culture and Industries of the Empire of the Incas. trans. Augustus Henry Keane, Vol. 1 (Berlin: A. Asher, 1880-1887). Collection Development Department. Widener Library. HCL, Harvard University.


We would like to inform you that photographs may be taken in the course of this event.
These photographs may be used in various media (print, online) and in publications (print, online)
of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Further information on data protection may be found under Link.


Date & Venue:
Vienna/online 14 March 2023 15:00-19:00 CET
Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI), Rabensteig 3, 1010 Vienna

Please register at anmeldung(at)vwi.ac.at by 14 March 2023, 12:00 am and bring your ID.

The event will be streamed on zoom: Link