August 2020 – Mass Death and Social Justice

In August 2020 #RadDeathReads focused on the theme of Mass Death and Social Justice.

WEEK 1 (AUG 8, 9): Donald Joralemon’s “Ordering Chaos: The Process of Remembering Mass Murder” is asking how “the collective loss of life related to acts of terrorism is characterised by passionate debate and intense disagreements over what and how to remember.” By looking at the Wounded Knee Massacre or the Oklahoma City Bombing we are looking at the meaning of the dead and whose deaths are etched into the public consciousness by memorialisation.

WEEK 2 (AUG 15, 16): We will open up our scope internationally with excerpts from Adam Rosenblatt’s book Digging for the Disappeared and look at the rise of the forensic human rights movement, its guiding principles, and how forensic teams become political actors and influencers in conflict and post-conflict areas.

WEEK 3 (AUG 22, 23): We will bring the discussion back to the USA by watching The Potter’s Field, a documentary looking at the silent masses of the homeless’ deaths, that are happening in our own backyards and communities away from our eyes and awareness. Especially given that the United States has a devastating COVID-19 death toll with over 100,200 people who have died in the last five months alone, we are seeing more and more misinformed reports popping up about mass graves in the United States. We will finish #RadDeathReads by looking at the mission of the Hart Island Project which will be a big step into educating the public about how national mass deaths and the deaths of those who don’t meet the right social criteria is handled in the United States.

WEEK 4 (AUG 29, 30): We will have the authors of “Ordering Chaos” and Digging for the Disappeared for Q & A

$15 (including reading material)


Adam Rosenblatt teaches International Comparative Studies at Duke University. Before earning his PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford University, he worked at Physicians for Human Rights, the Human Rights Center of the University of Chile, and at the U.S.-Mexico Border. His first book, Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science after Atrocity (Stanford, 2015) focused on the scientific investigation of mass graves as a window into both the past and the future of human rights. His current book project is about grassroots efforts to preserve burial grounds of the marginalized dead. He is a board member of the Friends of Geer Cemetery, working to restore and honor a historic African American cemetery in Durham, North Carolina, and is Chair of the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Collective for Radical Death Studies.

Donald Joralemon‘s research and writing has focused on the anthropology of organ transplantation, medical ethics and changing customs at the end of life in the United States. His article “Organ Wars: The Battle for Body Parts” (Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 1995) won the Polgar Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology.

Joralemon published articles on the ethics of organ transplantation in the Journal of Medical Ethics (2001) and in the Hastings Center Report (2003). He also has written on the topic of medical futility for the Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2000). His essay “Dying While Living: The Problem of Social Death” is included in the edited collection Our Changing Journey to the End (Praeger, 2013) and his article “Brain Death and the Politics of Religion,” appeared in The Routledge Handbook of Death and the Afterlife (Routledge, 2019).  His piece on public memorials, “Ordering Chaos: The Process of Remembering Mass Murder” (2015), appeared in the journal Mortality.

Joralemon’s most recent book, Mortal Dilemmas: The Troubled Landscape of Death in America, was published by Routledge in 2016. The fourth edition of his textbook, Exploring Medical Anthropology, was published by Routledge in 2017.


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