Contemporary popular print depicting Sati, Shiva and a scene of dismemberment, artist unknown, ca. 2000. Courtesy Priya Paul Collection of Popular Art

The Body in Pieces: Fragments of the Human Form


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This interdisciplinary panel focuses on fragmentation of the human body, including the use of body parts in ritual, myth, and religion. From ancient Andean trophy heads to medieval Christian relics and Hindu pilgrimage sites in colonial Bengal, these talks examine the making and meaning of the body in pieces, from its metaphorical to very visceral fragmentation. Drawing from art history, archaeology, and religious studies, speakers explore various cultural understandings about bodies and the body politic–in their dismembered, deconstructed or dissected forms–as expressions of identity, faith, and nationalism.

Imma Ramos is the curator of the medieval to modern South Asia collections at the British Museum in London. She curated the recent major exhibition, "Tantra: Enlightenment to Revolution." Her research interests revolve around the relationship between religion, politics and gender in South Asian visual culture.
Talk title: Dismembering a Goddess: The Myth of Sati and her Sites of Power

Beth Scaffidi is an assistant professor of Anthropology & Heritage Studies at the University of California, Merced, and is a spatially-oriented anthropological bioarchaeologist. She explores patterns in skeletal markers of social violence, inter- and intra-regional movement, and social inequality at multiple scales: regional, site, and individual life courses, using isotopic, paleopathological, and geospatial methods.
Talk title: Harvest/Transformation, Repair/Dissolution: Extended Lives of Andean Trophy Heads and Implications for Past and Modern Collections

John Lansdowne, an art historian of the Middle Ages, is a postdoctoral fellow and assistant to the director at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. His current research examines how images of Christ's body–"broken up but not divided"–served to allegorize the fractured condition of the Christian world. John received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2019.
Talk title: Breaking the Body and Building the World in Christian Fraction Rites

This program is part of The Fragment series, which explores how fragments have long catalyzed the study of visual culture while also continuing to inform contemporary views of society and art.

The conversation will be available on the Getty Research Institute YouTube channel following the event.

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