University of Dundee

Professor Sue Black receives humanitarian award from the RAI

10 Jul 2008

Professor Sue Black OBE FRSE, Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology and Director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification, is the 2008 recipient of the Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute. The Lucy Mair Medal is awarded to honour excellence in the application of anthropology to the relief of poverty and distress, and to the active recognition of human dignity.

Prof. Black’s own view of her work is certainly informed by an appreciation of human rights and an insight into human suffering. In her own words, “Forensic anthropology is best described as the analysis of human remains for the medicolegal purposes of establishing identity. Being able to assign a name to the deceased is critical to the successful outcome of all legal investigations, requiring more detailed and specialised knowledge, if the remains are commingled, fragmented, dismembered or cremated. In a judicial investigation, one cannot predict which parts of the human body will present for identification and therefore it is vital that every element be examined in an effort to determine the positive identity of the deceased. Within the last 10 years, forensic anthropology has come to play an increasingly important role in judicial investigations both within the UK and internationally, being core to issues of repatriation, mass disasters and war crimes.”

The Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI) is the world's longest-established scholarly association dedicated to the furtherance of anthropology (the study of humankind) in its broadest and most inclusive sense. The Royal Anthropological Institute seeks to combine a distinguished tradition of scholarship stretching back over more than 150 years with the active provision of services to contemporary anthropology and anthropologists (including students of anthropology). It has a particular commitment to promoting the public understanding of anthropology, and the contribution of anthropology to public affairs.  The Institute's regular special lectures comprise the Huxley Memorial Lecture and Presidential Address and the Henry Myers and Curl Lectures.

Upon being notified of her award Prof Black said, “This came as a huge surprise.  Forensic anthropology has a developing role to play in the alleviation of suffering, and in the last four years the University of Dundee has really invested and supported this enormously important venture”.

The Royal Anthropological Institute awards several international prizes, such as the Curl Essay Prize, the Wellcome Medal for Medical Anthropology, the Lucy Mair Medal for Applied Anthropology, and the J.B. Donne Essay Prize in the Anthropology of Art. It serves as a Trustee of several funds which award research grants, including the annual Leach/RAI Fellowship, and the annual RAI Fellowship in Urgent Anthropology.