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Virtual Autopsy Project

Image: Damon Lam, 2019 (Unsplash)

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Image: Xiao Cui, 2021 (Unsplash)

This research project explores how forensic imaging technology impacts coronial investigations in Australia. Post-mortem computed tomography has been used by forensic medical institutions across the world since the late twentieth century to supplement or as a triage for invasive autopsies. In recent decades, the autopsy has become a site of contestation, especially for families of the deceased who oppose post-mortem dissections due to religious or cultural beliefs. This project examines how virtual autopsies have transformed coronial investigations into sudden, unnatural, violent and accidental deaths.


The project is led by Dr Marc Trabsky at La Trobe University and is funded through an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DE220100064).


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Law and the Dead:
Technology, Relations, Institutions

(Routledge, 2019)

The governance of the dead in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries gave rise to a new arrangement of thanato-politics in the West. Legal, medical and bureaucratic institutions developed innovative technologies for managing the dead, maximising their efficacy and exploiting their vitality. Law and the Dead writes a history of their institutional life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

With a particular focus on the technologies of the death investigation process, including place-making, the forensic gaze, bureaucratic manuals, record-keeping and radiography, this book examines how the dead came to be incorporated into legal institutions in the modern era. Drawing on the writings of philosophers, historians and legal theorists, it offers tools for thinking through how the dead dwell in law, how their lives persist through the conduct of office, and how coroners assume responsibility for taking care of the dead.

This historical and interdisciplinary book offers a provocative challenge to conventional thinking about the sequestration of the dead in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It asks the reader to think through and with legal institutions when writing a history of the dead, and to trace the important role assumed by coroners in the governance of the dead. This book will be of interest to scholars working in law, history, sociology and criminology.

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