Arnaud Esquerre, “Les Os, les cendres et l’État”. Paris, Fayard, 2011

Who in Europe, is concerned today with bones and ashes of the deceased? French sociologist Arnaud Esquerre reveals that the French State has never so much cared for the dead than these last decades. Removing the church’s control over the fate of the corpses, it has indeed expanded its hold on the territory of bones and ashes. Since the 1970s, the report of human remains has indeed changed radically with the use of increasingly massive cremation, requests for return of human remains to “indigenous peoples”, the media coverage of the desecration of cemeteries or the development of DNA analysis and medical imaging.

Faced with these changes, successive French governments thus deployed a new policy prohibiting the fact that human remains, even burned, may stay elsewhere than in the public space, and simultaneously preventing or limiting exposure of human remains. Behind these major changes the relationship between the bones, ashes and the state reveals a new way to understand the community, individ uals and bodies.

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