Monday workshop
Monday, January 23, 2017 - 3:30pm

337 Cohen Hall

Emma Kowal, Deakin University

Haunting Biology: Blood, Bones and the Ghosts of the Ancestors

One night in 2009, an Aboriginal poet was haunted by a dead anatomist who cut through her body with a scalpel. I relate this story not as a freak event but as a reflection of the general condition of scientific research in postcolonial times. Kevin Hetherington's analysis of first and second burial can lead to haunting. Through interwoven stories of the collection, storage and use of bones and blood of Indigenous Australians, I explore how twentieth century scientific collection and its vital legacies are variously haunted. My analysis spans the collection of bones from what was considered a dying race, the role of human biology in the founding of Indigenous studies in the 1960s, Indigenous resistance to genetic research in the 1990s, the emergence of blood sample repatriation since 2000, and current Indigenous-led efforts to use old blood samples to provenance unprovenanced bones. The Aboriginal poet experienced her haunting as a call to arms from the spirits of those whose bones had not yet returned home. I ask, are old blood samples similarly haunted? And how would this effect Indigenous efforts to use them for their own technoscientific ends?