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Modern Mummies, Body Politics, and the Embalming of Leaders

March 8, 2013

A woman reacts to the site of Chavez’s casket at the Military Academy chapel in Caracas. (AFP/Getty Images)

The body of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will be displayed publicly “just like Lenin (and) Mao Zedong,” said the country’s vice president this Thursday on state-run TV.

“The race of prophets is extinct. Europe is becoming set in its ways, slowly embalming itself beneath the wrappings of its borders, its factories, its law-courts and its universities. The frozen Mind cracks between the mineral staves which close upon it. The fault lies with your moldy systems, your logic of 2 + 2 = 4. The fault lies with you, Chancellors, caught in the net of syllogisms. You manufacture engineers, magistrates, doctors, who know nothing of the true mysteries of the body or the cosmic laws of existence. False scholars blind outside this world, philosophers who pretend to reconstruct the mind. The least act of spontaneous creation is a more complex and revealing world than any metaphysics.” — Antonin Artaud.

“The strategic problem is, of course, that simulacra are reassuring only when viewed from outside. They do not provide an existential model for how to be in the world. One can appreciate the brilliance of the embalmer’s work, but one would not want to be its object.” ― Charles Bernheimer

“Books are embalmed minds.”– Christian Nevell Bovee.

Images via A photographic guide to the world’s embalmed leaders

What’s behind the display of embalmed world leaders?

Who, What, Why: How do you embalm a leader?


End is nigh for mummified Marxists: Andrew Higgins meets Moscow’s chief embalmer, who sees no future for his prized craft of preserving Communist leaders

Way to go: If Kim Jong-il is embalmed, here’s how they’d do it

The Modern Embalmer: “Embalming at the Speed of Enlightenment.”

Modern Mummies: The Preservation of the Human Body in the Twentieth Century

leninLenin’s body in 1991, the first time it was photographed in 30 years. (AFP/Getty Images)

Stalin laying in state in Moscow in 1953. (AFP/Getty Images)

Kim Il-Sung lies in state in 1994. (AFP/Getty Images)

An image of Kim Jong-Il in the memorial palace, taken from Korean TV in 2011. (AP)

A 1976 photo from China’s official news service shows party and state leaders standing vigil by Mao Zedong. (Xinhua/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos kisses the glass coffin of Ferdinand Marcos in 2010. (Reuters/Romeo Ronoco)

The embalmed body of Eva Peron in 1952 (Keystone/Getty Images)
ALSO:


Latin America After Chávez
by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
Chavez: Despot or Saint? by Bhaskar Sunkara.
HUGO BOSS: What I learned about Hugo Chávez’s mental health when I visited Venezuela with Sean Penn. By Christopher Hitchens.

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