Contact: Suzanne Trimel For immediate release
(212) 854-6579 November 24, 1997
Anthropologist Katherine Verdery Examines
Death and Politics in Columbia Lectures
Controversies over the corpses, burials and gravesites of national heroes in
post-socialist Eastern Europe and Russia -- and what this means politically -- will
be examined by the noted social scientist Katherine Verdery in three lectures the
week of Dec. 1 at Columbia University.
"Post-Socialist Necrophilia, or the Political Lives of Dead Bodies," is the title
of the lecture series, which begins at 5:30 P.M., Monday, Dec. 1, with "Corpses on
the Move," followed at the same time on Dec. 2 by "The Restless Bones of
Inochentie Micu" and on Dec. 4 by "Resignifying the Dust." The lectures will be
given in Casa Italiana, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue between West 116th and 118th
Streets. A reception will follow the final lecture. The series is hosted by three
Columbia affiliates, the Harriman Institute, the Italian Academy for Advanced
Studies in America and Columbia University Press.
The series will examine "the great frequency with which dead bodies have
been manipulated in the post-Soviet bloc since 1989 and the politics underlying
these manipulations," said Professor Verdery, one of the preeminent social
scientists studying Eastern Europe today. These "manipulations," she said,
include flying composer Bela Bartok back to Hungary from New York, and pianist
and statesman Ignacy Jan Paderewski to Warsaw from Arlington National
Cemetery; digging up the body of Hungarian Prime Minister Imre Nagy, turning
him over and reburying him; arguments between Poland and Russia concerning
the Polish officers massacred in Katyn forest during World War II, and
arguments about the fate of Lenin's body -- should it be taken out of a mausoleum
in Moscow and sent to St. Petersburg?
The first lecture presents "a parade of dead bodies," showing how frequent
reburials have been since 1989. Professor Verdery then offers some ideas about
how to understand the reburials through the prism of national ideology, kinship
and ancestor worship and notions of proper burial. In the second lecture,
Professor Verdery will discuss the plans for reburying in Transylvania an 18th
century bishop of the Greek-Catholic Church who is presently resting in Rome.
The final lecture takes up the reburials of bodies in the former Yugoslavia.
Professor Verdery's pioneering studies of ethno-national identity,
"Transylvanian Villagers: Three Centuries of Political, Economic and Ethnic
Change" (1983) and "National Ideology Under Socialism: Identity and Cultural
Politics in Ceausescu's Romania" (1991), are highly regarded in the field. She is
currently a fellow at the Stanford University Center for Advanced Study in the
Behavioral Sciences and will join the Anthropology Department of the University
of Michigan next year. She taught at Johns Hopkins University from 1977 to 1997
after earning the Ph.D. at Stanford University.