Bodies Lying in State: Nationalism, the Past, and Identity 

Author(s): Margaret A Comer

Year: 2013


In the twenty-first century, nationalism continues to be a powerful motivating ideology in global, national, and local politics.  In the hope of overtly and covertly strengthening cohesive nationalist sentiment and identity, individual states often use the very bodies of past peoples as symbols and ideological tools. This is evidenced in the differing display (or lack thereof) of human remains in the national museums of Denmark, Egypt, and the United States.  In each case, the identification of certain bodies as belonging to a shared national past leads to differing displays and interpretations, in keeping with the countries’ varied goals of establishing a national identity, asserting financial and cultural clout on a global scale, or solving dilemmas of national and group patrimony.   The national museums of these three countries fit human remains into larger, politically motivated narratives of national identity, raising questions of ethics around having ancient people "speak" for modern ideologies.

Cite this Record

Bodies Lying in State: Nationalism, the Past, and Identity . Margaret A Comer. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428725)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Temporal Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 634