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UNH The Rhetorical Plasticity of The Dead in Museum Displays Article Review

University of New Hampshire

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Help me study for my Communications class. I’m stuck and don’t understand.

Article Review: Brief assignments completed early in the course will leave you with a list of three published journal articles or book chapters relevant to rhetorical studies of display. With the instructor’s input, you will select one of those essays as the focus of your review. You are expected to (1) read the selected article carefully and thoughtfully so that you fully understand it, (2) prepare a 3-4 page outline of that article’s contents, and (3) present a 10-12 minute informative talk about that article to the seminar. Details for the outline and talk follow.The Outline: At the top of the first page of your outline provide an accurate citation for the article or chapter using a proper style format. An article citation should consist of author, title, journal, year, volume number, issue number, and pages. Prepare the outline using a consistent system of symbols with proper indentation that exhibits idea relationships in the work outlined. The Review: After you have prepared the outline, plan a 10-12 minute presentation. The presentation should start with an introduction. When introducing your review, state the article’s thesis. Be sure to explain how the articlerelates toan important idea or issue or theme relevant to rhetorical studies of display. The body of the presentation should (1) explain clearly the main analytical points of the essay and (2) illustrate those analytical points with clarifying examples. Good examples will enrich the content of your talk and stimulate interest. Examples preferably should be drawn from the author’s study. If visualillustrations are needed, then reproduce and append them to your outline. (Do NOT pass around a single copy or hold up an image on an 11” x 8.5” piece of paper.) The conclusion should (1) evaluate whether the study disclosed important rhetorical aspects of the display examined and (2) determine whether the author’s approach could be used to study other displays, with a specific example. The Performance: Be prepared for the occasion. Be ready to present your article or chapter on the day it is assigned. Bring stapled copies of your outline for all members of the seminar so that everyone has one in hand during your talk. (Please bring two copies for the instructor.) Be prepared for the talk. Your purpose is to inform your audience. That purpose is redeemable onlyif you understand the article yourself. (Feel free to consult with your instructor should you encounter difficulties understanding the article.) If you don’t

5understand the article, it will show. Being prepared for your talk also requires that you knowhow to expressideas. Pay attention to your use of language. Nothing kills an informative speaker’s credibility more than obvious inability to pronounce the technical words he or she is supposed to be explaining. Learn how to pronounce the terms before the presentation. Also remember that you are giving an oral presentation. You have a live audience sitting right in front of you. Speak to them and not the outline. Plan your talk with your audience in mind. Choose ideas and concepts in view of that audience. Lend interest and understanding with well-chosen examples. Arrange everything in a coherent order, with an introduction, body, and conclusion. Use a conversational style. Being prepared, finally, requires rehearsal. Practice will strengthen your command of ideas and how best to express them in words; it also will make you more confident. You can work out any “bumps” in the flow of ideas before rather than during the main event. When in command of your ideas and how to express them, your outline will become a resource for flexible use. And, above all, be sure to show up for your talk. An unexcused absence on the day your talk is scheduled will result in a failing grade for the assignment.

Do the outline and I uploaded the syllubus and article in the following document. Please read both of it.

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Western Journal of Communication Vol. 76, No. 3, May–June 2012, pp. 314–332 The Rhetorical Plasticity of the Dead in Museum Displays: A Biocritique of Missing Intercultural Awareness Ellen W. Gorsevski, Raymond I. Schuck, & Canchu Lin Using rhetorical analysis in the form of an autoethnographically informed biocritique, this study applies and expands the concept of rhetorical plasticity to examine the popular museum exhibit Bodies: The Exhibition, which is arguably the most controversial of a series of contemporary museum exhibits that feature deceased human bodies that have been plasticized and entertainingly displayed for public viewing in museums in cities worldwide. We investigate how rhetorical tropes, such as biological and health discourses that pleasantly effuse reason, and fun action poses, operate synergistically to invite audiences into a forgetting of cultural awareness and personal biography in exhibits that display unknown Chinese bodies to Western audiences. Keywords: Biocritique; Health; Intercultural Communication; Museums; Rhetorical Plasticity Today, an eerie new product is on the market: deceased human bodies, immaculately cleaned, preserved by plasticization, and entertainingly presented to audiences in an array of visual media. These bodies undergo a process first developed in 1975 by anatomist Gunther von Hagens that uses silicone rubber to preserve as lifelike real human remains, both as full bodies and as discrete, individual body parts like the heart, brain, and lungs (Winkel, 2000). This process replaces body fat and liquids All coauthors would like to thank the Editor and reviewers for their helpful input. Ellen W. Gorsevski (PhD, The Pennsylvania State University) is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Bowling Green State University. Raymond I. Schuck (PhD, Arizona State University) is an instructor of Communication at Bowling Green State University. Canchu Lin (PhD, Purdue University) is an Associate Professor of Communication at Tiffin University. Correspondence to: Ellen W. Gorsevski, Department of Communication, School of Media and Communication, 302 West Hall, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43403, USA. E-mail: ISSN 1057-0314 (print)/ISSN 1745-1027 (online) # 2012 Western States Communication Association DOI: 10.1080/10570314.2012.654888 Western Journal of Communication 315 with silicone polymers, molding cadavers into lively, odorless human forms (Moore & Brown, 2007). Von Hagens originated the practice of museum displays featuring these bodies when his exhibit, Body Worlds (hereafter identified as BW), opened in 1995. Since then, plasticized bodies have appeared in the film Casino Royale (Wilson, Broccoli, & Campbell, 2006), on the Internet, and in museum exhibits worldwide from San Diego to Paris that include not only BW, but also various imitators, including the subject of this article, Bodies . . . The Exhibition (hereafter identified as BTE). These bodies exhibits have been immensely popular. Since its opening, over 30 million people have seen BW (‘‘The Unparalleled,’’ 2006–2010), while BTE has garnered over 15 million museumgoers since it began its run in 2005 (‘‘About,’’ 2011). The exhibits have also produced significant controversy, with critics articulating various concerns that include questions about the ethics of the procurement, transportation, and display of the deceased bodies and concerns about vague and undocumented origins of the bodies (Boylan, 2009; Ross, Schwartz, & Schecter, 2008; Yu, 2007). Given these concerns, the exhibits warrant analysis highlighting ‘‘social justice concerns . . . [about] global practices of organs procurement and transplant’’ (Scheper-Hughes, 2005, p. 164). In this case, the ‘‘transplant’’ connotes a socioeconomic, political, and above all, cultural transplantation. The transplanted ‘‘organs’’ are entire human bodies of hundreds (and, over time, potentially thousands) of deceased persons, mostly from China. Museum curators transplant these bodies into other cultural, national and ideological milieus (see Davis, 2006; Lohman, 2006; Rony, 1996; Schiller, 2008; Thomas, 2008) where savvy rhetorics of display render the bodies amenable to museumgoers’ consumption in the visual marketplace of the modern museum (Johnson, 2008). This situation metaphorically compares to medications that organ transplant recipients take to prevent rejection of transplanted organs by their immune systems. Western museumgoers, as a body politic comprised of cultural recipients of these foreign bodies and organs, appear to need exposure to palatable discourses and comfortingly recognizable visual displays as rhetorical inoculations against cultural rejection (see Blair, 2001; Cartwright, 1998; Dubin, 1999; Linke, 2005; Marvin, 1994). Some research has examined social and ethical issues that arise within this context (Allen, 2007; Barilan 2006; Burns, 2007; Connor, 2007; Lieboff, 2005; Linke, 2005). Still, the exhibits warrant further examination that focuses specifically on the rhetorical means by which BTE offers the kinds of comforting discourses that attempt to shift museumgoers’ attentions from potentially interculturally insensitive practices that have produced the displays toward discourses that seem inclusive and innocuous. Focusing on BTE, which, among bodies exhibits, has been most central to controversies regarding uses of plasticized bodies and potential intercultural insensitivities of using undocumented Chinese bodies, this article offers rhetorical analysis in the form of an autoethnographically informed biocritique that problematizes omission of Chinese identity and culture in BTE’s emphasis on biology without biography of its subjects. Our study examines how BTE’s discursive shifting toward a palatable, seemingly innocuous characterization of bodies occurs, particularly as 316 E. W. Gorsevski et al. this occurrence can be theorized through the lens of what Beer (1994) has called ‘‘rhetorical plasticity,’’ in which ‘‘the meaning of reason . . . varies continuously . . . [and] functions as an important rhetorical trope in political discourse. Its plastic flexibility helps reason stimulate and evoke variable mental images and responses in different settings and situations, all the more important because these go largely unnoticed’’ (p. 185). While Beer used rhetorical plasticity to study the language of reason in political contexts, it can also provide a heuristic means for examining seemingly reasonable discourses that allow the complex politics of bodies exhibits and attendant cultural practices to ‘‘go unnoticed’’ (p. 185). As our article will show, BTE demonstrates rhetorical plasticity through scientific descriptors linking deceased bodies to discourses of accountability for personal health, bracketed within an ‘‘edutainment’’ frame enabled largely through factual yet fun discourses that emphasize reason while occluding intercultural awareness. Using rhetorical analysis of BTE based on field notes from one coauthor’s visits to the exhibit in three U.S. Cities (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and New York) plus Web sites studied by all coauthors, we contend that BTE dismisses consideration of intercultural concerns regarding transplantation of human bodies and treatment of the dead by positioning its exhibit within a Western museum display context, utilizing scientific discourses that offer museumgoers an entertaining experience meant to educate about personal health accountability by focusing on physiological similarities among human bodies. This analysis will contribute to strengthening productively theoretical interstices among intercultural, autoethnographic and rhetorical studies of communication. Plasticized Bodies on Display While we have noted both popularity of and controversy over bodies exhibits, the context of public reaction to the exhibits merits fuller explication before proceeding further with our analysis. Reactions have most prominently focused on the first exhibit of human bodies, BW, and are typified by the 2006 response of Hanson Yu after attending the exhibit of Body Worlds 3 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Yu (2007) indicated an initial emotion of shock that gave way to artistic appreciation, reporting, Initially, [we] felt intimidated by . . . macabre specimens . . . posed ‘‘action-figure style,’’ revealing . . . preserved muscles, bundles of nerves, and colored resin-infused blood vessels. But . . . tour guides eased . . . anxieties by turning . . . attention to . . . anatomic details and artistic aspects of these figures . . . . [We] were awed by these specimens . . . transformed with great skill into . . . fine arts. (p. 49) While Yu’s comments exemplify much public reaction to bodies exhibits, responses have ranged from supportive views that have emphasized the educational value of seeing the human body in all of its glory to religious or philosophical critiques decrying abuses presumed as inherent when posing human remains as sexualized objects or in dramatic poses. Critics have pointed to ethical issues of sourcing, handling, and presenting human remains as highly profitable art (Moore & Brown, 2007, p. 232; see also Leiberich, Western Journal of Communication 317 Loew, Tritt, Lahmann, & Nickle, 2006; Walter, 2004a). Linke’s (2005) criticism of BW focuses on its confluence of troubling phenomena, including transnational, psychological, sociological, and economic factors that largely enable museums and museumgoers to ignore violent ramifications of displaying large numbers of human bodies and body parts in artsy action poses. Hibbs (2007) suggested that the Western cultural love of violence in television, computer games, and Hollywood horror films comes full circle with BW, which he bemoaned for its missed opportunities to invoke in viewers a genuine reflection about death. Meanwhile, Stern (2003) suggested that BW relies on portrayals conveying idealized notions of femininity and masculinity and that, while White Westerners donate BW’s cadavers, corpses of non-Whites such as ‘‘mentally ill, impoverished or convicted Asians’’ were obtained in less transparent ways, which ‘‘reflects the global relationship between consumer rights and commodified bodies in contemporary medical culture’’ (para. 12). Overall, ethics-based criticisms such as these opine physical and symbolic forms of violence or repression inherent in BW’s bodies displays. While BTE is modeled on BW, criticisms of BW both differ from and relate to BTE. Similar questions apply to BTE but in greater degree because whereas BW has moved away from using Chinese cadavers, BTE exclusively uses unidentified Chinese corpses. Since 2003 BW has used only legally obtained corpses with identifying release papers, and in 2007 BW stopped sourcing Chinese bodies; in contrast, BTE solely uses undocumented cadavers of anonymous, Chinese persons (‘‘FAQ’’, 2011, para. 7; Moore & Brown, 2007, p. 233; Ross et al., 2008). BW requires donors, mainly Westerners, to complete legally vetted consent forms prior to their deaths (‘‘Body Donation’’, 2011 para. 1); at this writing BTE continues to rely on undocumented bodies obtained under allegedly questionable circumstances (Ross et al., 2008). Questions about the origins of BTE’s bodies formed the basis for an investigation by ABC News program 20=20 that led to litigation ending or circumscribing BTE’s exhibit displays in California, Hawaii, and New York. In 2009, as a direct response to BTE’s visit in Honolulu, state representative Marcus Oshiro proposed legislation to ‘‘outlaw exhibition of dead human bodies unless promoters can prove where . . . cadavers came from and show that the deceased consented to the display’’ (Boylan, 2009, para. 1). Additionally, a lawsuit brought by the State of New York requires Premier Exhibitions (PE), the body supplier of BTE, to refund offended viewers and to feature a statement on its Web site and on-site at any BTE displays in New York acknowledging that PE ‘‘cannot independently verify that . . . [bodies=parts] do not belong to persons executed . . . in Chinese prisons’’ (Premier Exhibitions, Inc., n.d.). This lawsuit requires Premier to ‘‘obtain documentation demonstrating . . . cause of death . . . origins of the cadavers and body parts it displays . . . [and] proof . . . the decedent consented to . . . use of his or her remains . . . ’’ (Office of Attorney General of the State of New York, 2008, para. 1). Meanwhile, the status of rubberized cadavers places them outside the purview of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The bodies are thus transported, bought and traded as ‘‘art,’’ which has confounded critics and activists. In Hawaii, state health officials balked when proposed legislation was handled as a ‘‘commerce’’ or ‘‘business’’ issue rather than a human health issue; 318 E. W. Gorsevski et al. nonetheless, in 2009 Hawaii became the first state to ban BTE (Schecter, 2009). BTE has responded to these concerns with a disclaimer acknowledging undocumented origins of bodies, but that disclaimer starkly contrasts with measures BW has taken recently to ensure ethical procurement and handling. BW even hired an independent bioethicist to vet each organ donor form and certificate for its more than 7,000 body donors (Moore & Brown, 2007). Thus, while much public discussion has focused on BW, BTE warrants particular consideration because BTE, more than BW, has been the basis for publicly voiced concerns that are central to our inquiry. Meanwhile, despite vocalized concerns about plasticized bodies exhibits, critics appear to constitute a minority reaction to the displays (Moore & Brown, 2007), and audience acceptance of these exhibits does not seem accidental. As our application of rhetorical plasticity will demonstrate, BTE invites museumgoers to think rationally and mirthfully about the scientific, educational aspects of the display, but not to engage with the cultures or biographies of the individual Chinese persons whose bodies are exhibited. Because this invitation occurs within traditions of Western museum practices involving the procurement and display of cultural artifacts and peoples, particularly as artifacts have been transported from the cultures from which they originate for display within other cultures, the next section of our article reviews literature on these practices. Museum Displays Fostering Intercultural Amnesia Although American bodies have been exhibited in the U.S. since the 19th century, educational displays were designed for and limited to viewing by medical students, not the general public (Sappol, 2004). Educational exhibits of deceased American bodies on display have not been used by museums as a major source of revenue (Sappol, 2004). Moreover, because demographics of museums trend heavily toward White audiences, with demographics of art museums running at 92 percent White, followed by science museums at 84 percent White (Museum Audience Insight, 2010), BTE’s reliance on non-White, anonymous Asian bodies for display invokes hegemonic issues. Among such issues, museum displays often normalize cultural, institutional and direct forms of violence that, both historically and presently, colonizers (and their descendants) have perpetrated against colonized, indigenous persons of color and the descendants of historically oppressed groups of people (Cartwright, 1998; Dickinson, Ott, & Aoki, 2005; Dubé, 2004; Dubin, 1999). Museum displays frequently foster forgetting of historical abuses and offer official state sanctioning of unpalatable historical episodes (Dubin, 1999). Critiques of museum exhibits acknowledge the problematic reverberation of past and present, even in so-called postmodern art exhibits that might appear ahistorical (Sepúlveda dos Santos, 2003). Nineteenth-century European museums reduced colonized peoples to relics of anthropological pasts, portraying their evolutionary progress as retarded and validating their subjugation as lesser beings (Bennett, 2004). Lopsided portrayals of interactions between groups of peoples continue today, causing ‘‘widespread concern with finding solutions to the . . . crisis of representation’’ (Ruby, 2000, p. 5). Ruby (2000) Western Journal of Communication 319 advocated addressing problematic portrayals by taking ‘‘a critical approach’’ that combines key areas of scholarship, including ‘‘communication, media and cultural studies’’ (p. 339). Likewise, Atwater and Herndon (2003) suggest examining public museum display rhetoric through the ‘‘intersection of race and culture’’ (p. 16) to assess more accurately probable interpretations by diverse museumgoers and to sensitize curators and publics to upsetting, controversial histories. Museum exhibits’ rhetoric influences cultural forgetting. In studying narratives that downplay African American voices and agency at the Delta Blues Museum, King (2006) concluded that official culture, especially politicized curatorial work, supersedes potential for polysemy and museumgoer agency in interpreting exhibits on display. Prosise (1998) recounted ways museum displays, like depictions of the U.S. using atomic bombs against Japan in World War II, surpass cultural forgetting, encouraging ignorance of controversial historical events involving massive-scale violence by one ethnic group against another. Dao’s (2005) examination of a California museum display portraying a White American narrative of the Vietnam War era revealed how modern museums hide violence and ‘‘[perpetuate] a revisionist project characterized by erasure’’ (p. 89). Dao emphasized that museum exhibits are ‘‘structural re-enforcements of hegemonic cultural and political agendas’’ (p. 90). Since BTE, which exclusively uses Asians’ remains, involves unequal power relations between Western and Asian cultural groups, Dao’s research provides a useful exemplar for our study. Correspondingly, Carpio (2006) wrote that encouraging forgetting requires a process of ‘‘absenting,’’ or ‘‘deliberate exclusion, of the [dominated] other’s history . . . to construct and reify the master narrative’’ (p. 620). Carpio described the museum’s rhetorical role in reinforcing narratives that normalize violence against ethnic or racial others, as in the Denver Museum of Natural History in the 1970s, which, from her perspective as an American Indian, retold and distorted history to justify violent domination by Europeans or Euro-Americans over indigenous peoples in the Americas. Similarly, Modlin (2008) observed that museum displays of dominated groups, like enslaved persons portrayed in Southern U.S. plantation museums, downplayed narratives describing the lives of the enslaved and their descendants. Modlin showed how most plantation museum displays focused on lives of the White family in the ‘‘Big House’’ (p. 266), portrayed as benign and central to the success of the plantation, while commentary on lives of the far more numerous enslaved African persons and their descendants was virtually nonexistent. When enslaved persons’ lives were mentioned, the narrative was carefully whitewashed through layers of sociocultural myths deemphasizing violence and misery that enslaved people experienced daily throughout their lives (Modlin, 2008). Modlin also tracked use of a rhetorical trope of absenting, originally identified by Eichstedt and Small (2002), as ‘‘symbolic annihilation’’ (p. 108), which pinpoints lost moments or missed opportunities in a museum exhibit or tour that actively stifle cultural memory and provide a euphemized, sanitized version of a given history, place, and people. BTE occurs within thes ...
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Final Answer


Running head: ARTICLE REVIEW


Article Review
Institutional Affiliation



Article Review
Gorsevski, E. W., Schuck, R. I., & Lin, C. (2012). The rhetorical plasticity of the dead in
museum displays: A bio critique of missing intercultural awareness. Western Journal of
Communication, 76(3), 314-332.

This section provides an executive summary of the main parts discussed in the article.

It provides background information about the study by briefly explaining the issue and its

The summarizes the research methodologies used by the authors to the collection and
analyze data

Finally, the abstract depicts the summary of the findings and conclusion of the study

The current situation in the museums from different part of the world is not cultural
friendly following their tendency to display the plasticized bodies without offering tribute
to the owners of the bodies

Besides, this section explains the background of the study as well as the implication of
the study

It highlights that the investigation has evaluated the ethical and social issues that come up
within this setting

Plasticized Bodies on Display

This section describes how human bodies are treated with silicon and other chemicals to
avoid further decomposition to preserve them for an extended period


People’s view and reactions on the practice has been discussed in this section

Museum Displays Fostering Interc...

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