Embalmed Vision

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (SciVal)


This paper presents the history and theory of nineteenth century preservation technologies that mechanically altered the human corpse. By theorizing the socio-historical affects of those technologies, the production of entirely new postmortem conditions for all dead bodies are suggested. These technologies of preservation effectively invented the modern corpse; transforming the dead body into something new: a photographic image, a train passenger, a dead body that looked alive. All of these technological innovations are matched by the emergence of an early twentieth century funeral industry that turned the preserved human corpse into a dead body that was atemporal. Once the human corpse could exist outside of the normal biological time that controlled the body's decomposition, it became a well-suited subject for unfettered public display. Dead bodies emerge in this paper as the products of nineteenth century human technologies that created a kind of embalmed vision that we living humans still use today, albeit without noticing, when looking at death.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-47
Number of pages26
JournalMortality: Promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying
Issue number1
Early online date19 Feb 2007
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2007


  • Corpse
  • Embalming
  • Mortuary science
  • Postmortem photography
  • Railway transport
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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