2020 Crisis

Breath In and Out; Say Their Name: Renée Ater’s Instagram-Based Memorial, “I Can’t Breathe”

by Kaylee P. Alexander

This is how Renée Ater, a public scholar and historian, began a personal blogpost on May 29, 2020, just four days after the murder of George Floyd. Three days later she took to Instagram, posting a simple black square with Floyd’s name and life dates. Intended at first as a one-off post, an interruption to the too often rose-colored images that tended to occupy her social media feed, Ater soon shifted gears… Read More

Our Latest Live Event

Disasters, Violence, and Recovering Bodies

This interdisciplinary panel features experts involved in disaster recovery, supporting families who have lost loved ones to mass violence, and identifying the bodies of missing persons in contexts including post-conflict northern Uganda, the United Kingdom, Armenia and Azerbaijan, a forgotten massacre site of striking African American workers in the U.S., and the “killing fields” of the U.S.-Mexico Border. Together, they will explore how their work challenges dominant paradigms of experts’ detachment and objectivity, what constitutes a disaster site, how it should be investigated, how mourners and bodies are treated, and what kinds of healing or “closure” can be hoped for. 

When: Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at 10:30 a.m. EST

Where: Register on Zoom HERE

Davette Gadison
Forensic Coordinator for the South Caucusas under the Forensic Unit of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Angela Soler
Board Certified Forensic Anthropologist at the New York City Office of Chief Medical Examiner (NYC OCME).

Jaymelee Kim
Associate Professor of Forensic Sciences, University of Findlay, Ohio.

Lucy Easthope
Professor in Practice of Risk and Hazard at the University of Durham and Fellow in Mass Fatalities and Pandemics at the Centre for Death and Society, University of Bath.

Past Events

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COVID-19 and the Changing Culture of Grief Around the World

By: Justin Cook

Death rituals have always been imbued with cultural values. What happens, though, when minority cultures, who are among the most impacted by COVID-19, have their death rituals upended or halted entirely? 

In Ghana, where “there is no such thing as a private burial…and funerals are huge, dramatic and regular ceremonies,” mourning norms are now disrupted (Ohene).  Public gatherings of grief are not allowed because of social distancing enforcement. Gone too are the typical three days of condolences for both Muslim and Christian believers which would bring large groups of friends and family together… Read More

Canada Implemented Social Distancing from the Dead to Save the Living

By: Robyn Lacy

All across Canada, the funeral industry, particularly cemeteries and how they function to the public during the time of this pandemic, is changing.  For fear of the living spreading COVID-19 when gathering to mourn the dead, families are not only delaying funerals but also cemeteries are closing in order to safeguard death care workers.

Due to what is being termed “Caul’s Cluster,” local officials and cemetery board of directors are making the tough decisions to drastically limit their open hours and shut down cemeteries to the public altogether or make room in already tight budgets for PPE for all employees. It is called “Caul’s Cluster” because Caul’s Funeral Home is the direct link to half of Newfoundland’s known COVID-19 cases.  In mid-March, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, an individual, who had recently travelled and later tested positive for Covid-19, attended a funeral at Caul’s Funeral Home that then resulted in more than 60 individuals becoming infected!  Although the individual did not knowingly spread the virus, as the measures in place were not as rigorous as they are today, the instance has shaken the funeral industry in Canada… Read More 

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