, Volume 28, Issue 4, pp 231-254

Experiencing Body Worlds: Voyeurism, Education, or Enlightenment?

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Abstract

Until the advent of plastinated cadavers, few outside the medical professions have had firsthand experience with human corpses. Such opportunities are now available at the Body Worlds exhibits of Gunther von Hagens. After an overview of these exhibits, we explore visitor responses as revealed in comment books available upon exiting the exhibit. Cultural, philosophical, and religious issues raised in the comments serve as a microcosm of society at large. The conclusion considers the challenge of such exhibits in introducing the public to science education, notes the image of the body as machine—so prevalent in the West—reflected in visitor comments, and finds hope that the exhibits promote, for many visitors, a sense of community among all humankind.