Skip to main content

Research on Human Remains: An Ethics of Representativeness

  • 908 Accesses

Abstract

Within the complex matrix of ethical considerations in the handling of human remains, the notion that human remains represent, stands out as having serious implications for research and curatorship. Representativeness reminds us of the ethical relevance of the group level of identities in the European framework, actualised not least in terms of ethnicity. In line with basic research ethical principles, it is the wellbeing of those now living, which forms the most central consideration in questions of representativeness. Where continuities exist between previous populations and identifiable groups today, knowledge of such representativeness is necessary for acting ethically and for reaching legitimate solutions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-32926-6_4
  • Chapter length: 14 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   84.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-3-030-32926-6
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   109.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Hardcover Book
USD   159.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)

Notes

  1. 1.

    For the case of the UK, the historical background with a wealth of concrete examples is provided by Fforde (2004).

  2. 2.

    For a still instructive overview of issues pertaining to negotiations between this ethnic group and the nation state, see Hylland Eriksen (1991, esp. 271–274).

  3. 3.

    This procedure was first officially suggested by Lønning et al. (1998, 22 [Sect. 4]).

  4. 4.

    For reminders of the relations between historical background and current practices, peruse entries including treatments of Jewish or Sami remains in Márquez-Grant and Fibiger (2011, e.g. 449–450).

  5. 5.

    The mechanism of such a specifically historical responsibility is surprisingly elusive as seen from the vantage point of contemporary ethical theory. I pursue its details in Fossheim (2018).

References

  • Fforde, C. 2004. Collecting the Dead: Archaeology and the Reburial Issue. London: Duckworth.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fossheim, H.J. 2018. Past Responsibility: History and the Ethics of Research on Ethnic Groups. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 73: 35–43.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenfieldboyce, N. 2017. The Saga of the Irish Giant’s Bones Dismays Medical Ethicists. Shots: Health News From NPR. March 13. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/03/13/514117230/the-saga-of-the-irish-giants-bones-dismays-medical-ethicists. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • Hals Gylseth, C., and L.O. Toverud. 2003. Julia Pastrana: The Tragic Story of the Victorian Ape Woman. Stroud: Sutton.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hylland Eriksen, T. 1991. Ethnicity Versus Nationalism. Journal of Peace Research 28 (3): 263–278.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Institute of Basic Medical Sciences. 2017. Bioanthropology. https://www.med.uio.no/imb/english/research/groups/bioanthropology/index.html. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • James, M. 2016. Race. In: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/race/. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • Kyllingstad, J.R. 2015. Measuring the Master Race: Physical Anthropology in Norway 1890–1945. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lipphardt, V. 2014. “Geographical Distribution Patterns of Various Genes”: Genetic Studies of Human Variation After 1945. Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 30: 1–12.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Lønning, I., M. Guhttor, J. Holme, et al. 1998. Innstilling fra Utvalg for vurdering av retningslinjer for bruk og forvaltning av skjelettmateriale ved Anatomisk institutt [Proposal from the Committee for Evaluation of Guidelines for the Use and Curation of Skeletal Material at the Anatomical Institute]. Oslo: The University of Oslo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lov om Sametinget og andre samiske rettsforhold (sameloven) [Sami Act]. 1987. Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, Oslo.

    Google Scholar 

  • Márquez-Grant, N., and L. Fibiger (eds.). 2011. The Routledge Handbook of Archaeological Human Remains and Legislation: An International Guide to Laws and Practice in the Excavation and Treatment of Archaeological Human Remains. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research. 1979. The Belmont Report. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. https://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/regulations-and-policy/belmont-report/index.html. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • Norwegian National Committee for the Evaluation of Research on Human Remains. 2014. Vedrørende utleveringskrav av skjelettmateriale fra Pasvik [Concerning Demand for Repatriation of Skeletal Material from Pasvik]. https://www.etikkom.no/globalassets/documents/uttalelser/skjelettutvalget/skj-svarbrev-sak-2013-151-27-01-2014.pdf. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • O’Donnabhain, B., and M.C. Lozada. 2014. Archaeological Human Remains: Global Perspectives. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parkinson. J. 2016. The Significance of Sarah Baartman. BBC News Magazine. January 7. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-35240987. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • Payne, S. 2012. Archaeology and Human Remains: Handle with Care! Recent English Experiences. In More than Just Bones: Ethics and Research on Human Remains, ed. H. Fossheim, 49–64. Oslo: The Norwegian National Research Ethics Committees.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sellevold, B. 2011. Norway. In The Routledge Handbook of Archaeological Human Remains and Legislation, ed. N. Márquez-Grant and L. Fibiger, 317–328. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  • Westerman, F. 2016. The Man Stuffed and Displayed Like a Wild Animal. BBC News Magazine. September 16. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-37344210. Accessed 11 July 2018.

  • Wimmer, H. 2013. Ethnic Boundary Making: Institutions, Power, Networks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

For their constructive comments on previous versions of this chapter, I am grateful to participants at the Twentieth Century Histories of Knowledge About Human Variation research group workshop, Max Planck Institute of Berlin; the Race, Ethnicity, Ancestry, and Human Genetic Variation NTM workshop, Oslo; the 12th World Congress of Bioethics, Mexico City; and the Rethinking Sami Cultures in Museums conference, University of Oslo. Thanks to the editors of this volume for their conscientious and constructive feedback. Finally, a special thanks to Jon Kyllingstad and Ageliki Lefkaditou for their detailed and helpful comments on earlier versions of the text. The Research Council of Norway funded this research through the Cultural Conditions Underlying Social Change program (SAMKUL; project no.: 220741/F10).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hallvard J. Fossheim .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2019 Springer Nature Switzerland AG

About this chapter

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this chapter

Fossheim, H.J. (2019). Research on Human Remains: An Ethics of Representativeness. In: Squires, K., Errickson, D., Márquez-Grant, N. (eds) Ethical Approaches to Human Remains. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-32926-6_4

Download citation