Human Plastination

We know that deviance is a word used to explain a behavior that violates the “norms.”  As stated in our text The Practical Skeptic on page 173 “To define an act as deviant is to say nothing about whether that act is good or bad, or moral or immoral.  To say that an act is deviant is to say only that it violates the norms of a particular group of people at a particular point of time.”

A good example of this would be Gunther Von Hagens and his art of human plastination.  I’m not sure if any of you have ever been to any of his Body Worlds exhibits, but it is fascinating!

What he does, is in my opinion, a work of art.  But, that opinion does vary.  Death can be hard for people to deal with.  The norm at one time was one of two things, people were either burried or cremated.  When Gunther Von Hagens started the art of plastination, it caused quite a controversy.  Seriously, to embalm someone, strip away various parts of their body, have them naked and on display was appauling to many.

The body worlds exhibit is not only amazing but also a very educational experience for many.  Although it was certainly a break from the “norm” it has it’s benefits and has become a more accepted practice.

Below I have included some links about the exhibit itself, the controversy behind it and general information.


7 thoughts on “Human Plastination

  1. The links you provided were very informative and gave my outlook on human plastination a new vantage point. On the body worlds website, Von Hagens gives insight into how he came up with the process, and there is nothing sinister about it. The world of art and science mix here, and while some people may not like seeing examples of their own mortality, I think the exhibit is both artistic and educational – something a lot of people strive hard to accomplish. The FAQ page seems like it also would quell most people’s concerns. The bodies are not identified in any way, and were explicitly donated for this exhibit. I think this exhibit pushes the boundaries of our social norms, and although it might even be considered taboo by some people, I really agree with the millions who go to see it.

    The link below shows some of the concerns people have with plastination. It mostly concerns human dignity and the “objectification” of the corpses. There is apparently also concern over the consent of some Chinese bodies being used, although I’m not so sure how valid those claims are.

  2. I had never heard of this before. As I checked out the links, at first I thought that this was a little disturbing, but after getting past my initial feeling I kept looking and realized that this was interesting to look at. You can learn so much from the human body and if the people were willing to donate their bodies to science for this then it is their choice. I have to say that this is definately not considered a norm and I can see why some people would be agaist it.

  3. I also had not heard of this before your posting. Interesting yes, but I did find it disturbing. I am open minded enough to see how it can be considered an art form, but at the same time I am kind of disgusted by the displays. Not because of the human bodies but because of the image that is left in my mind.

  4. WOW!! Plastination! I also had never even knew it existed. It is interesting but I can see how it is deviant to the norms of society. It is looked at by some as disrespect for the deceased. Although science and art contribute to what it is. If educating others in the sense that we see what disease does to the human body I can see the purpose. It is quite disturbing to see some of the photos. I can see why people would find this deviant, it seems so non human to do such a thing. Interesting though thanks for sharing and exposing me to something new.

  5. Just like many others have posted, I have never heard of plastination either. In many societies I am sure this is a sign of disrespect to the deceased as well and it would be seen as deviant behavior. I am sure people who admire the anatomy or art might see this as a creative creation and accept it too.

  6. I have heard the term plastination before but never really knew what it meant. I must say it is a little disturbing, and I can see how people thought it was wrong. Like you said deviance is not based on the act being good or bad. People might have just labeled it as bad without really knowing much about it. The act of plastination would have been seen as deviant to people at a certain time because it violates the norms. If millions of people are going to see it, (and it seems like a lot of people few it as art also) then they clearly don’t see it as wrong, or immoral.

  7. This is some very interesting stuff. It made me feel badly about procrastinating my Anatomy & Physiology studying to read blogs, but also helped me study at the same time!!! I think this is an amazing way to honor the deceased. I have said in the past that I have a difficult time understanding why people react the way that they do to so-called deviant behavior. My only concern with this would be what happens with the bodies when they are taken off exhibit or worn out. It is only then that for me it becomes a case of potential disrespect. I try to be open minded about things and struggle with people that impose sanctions on other for things that are deviant, but inconsequential to that particular individual, such as homosexuality. While you may not agree with how these bodies are being treated, you do not have to go to the exhibit or have your body plastinated, so there should be no sanctions or controversy around this type of behavior.

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