May 4, 2021

Webinar 5/20: “Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet” Museum Collections and the Demand for Principles of Accountability

  • Webinar
  • Wenner-Gren Hosted Event

On Thursday, May 20th, the Wenner-Gren Foundation hosted, “Skeletons in the Anthropological Closet”: Museum Collections and the Demand for Principles of Accountability. Watch it now!

The recent controversy surrounding the existence of the remains of two black children killed in the 1985 police bombing of the MOVE revolutionary collective in Philadelphia that were thought to be repatriated and buried by their family members have ignited new questions about anthropology’s use of those remains in museums and teaching forums.  Many questions abound about why contemporary museums still hold the skeletal remains of people who never consented to their use and what responsibilities universities and funding agencies have to ensure that their researchers are in compliance with moral, ethical and political standards.

This panel serves to open a series of conversations dedicated to exploring the possibilities of an anthropology grounded in a commitment to “radical humanism.”   In a radically humanist anthropology, equality, connection, and becoming serve as guiding principles that (1) disrupt predominant conceptualizations of a stable, knowable, liberal subject in “the field,” (2) recognize the many ways that humans and non-humans are entangled, and (3) center justice, equity, and the reduction of harm as key aims of the anthropological project.  The goal is to not only understand the histories that shape this development but to also ponder a new way forward in considering the foundational basis upon which we rethink anthropological work.




Rachel Watkins, PhD, Associate Professor, American University

Chip Colwell, PhD, Editor-in-Chief, SAPIENS

Carlina de la Cova, PhD, Associate Professor, University of South Carolina

Ciraj Rassool, PhD, Senior Professor of History, University of the Western Cape

Michael Blakey, PhD, NEH Professor, College of William and Mary



Justin Dunnavant, PhD, Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Vanderbilt University and Co-founder/President of the Society of Black Archaeologists

CART captioning – Joshua Edwards

Hosted by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research

Organized by the Association of Black Anthropologists, Anthropology Southern Africa, and the Center for Experimental Ethnography

While Wenner-Gren is proud to be providing a platform for this event, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Foundation.