• 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…

  • Pedro Zamora from MTV’s Real World & Radical Death Activism by: Justin Cook

    Pedro Zamora was so much more than just one of the stars of the 1993 season of MTV’s The Real World. He was, as his AIDS Quilt patch made very clear – a son, lover, friend, educator, activist, and hero. He was also one of the first openly gay people with HIV to appear on television. But even before his time on The Real World, Zamora was an HIV/AIDS advocate having been involved with the Miami HIV/AIDS organization Body Positive and lectured at schools throughout the country working towards comprehensive sexual education programs inclusive of safe sex practices and HIV/AIDS awareness.   After his time on The Real World, Pedro…

  • Religion and Maternal Grief by: Danielle Griego, PhD

    “Saint Thomas, long ago you returned my son to me. Why did you give him back, only to cause maternal grief? You cured the illness that caused miserable pain. Woe is me! How have I sinned? What command have I gone against to endure bereavement.” Medieval miracle stories, which were collections of miracle accounts used to promote an individual’s sanctity, also contained numerous descriptions of child death and maternal grief. Religious authors often employed female grief in these accounts to highlight their expectations for parental duties, specifically the notion that women were responsible for the safety of children around the domestic realm. Women were often depicted as grieving publicly in…

  • In Memoriam of Adolescence: Burial of Children in the 19th Century by: Robyn S. Lacy

    In early Canadian settler communities, the infant mortality rate was very high making death a more prominent part of their daily lives. In addition, the families were larger making each child death that much harder for parents. As expressed through detailed poems and careful words chosen from the epithets, one can see love and grief was real and powerful as illustrated through the detail, poems, and careful words chosen for the gravestones of infants in the 19th century.  In this post, we will explore a bit more about how 19th-century settlers portrayed the death of their children through grave markers, and the types of sculpture that was popular throughout the…

  • The Viralization of Black Death & Online Memorialization Practices by Justin Cook

    With the rise of digital media also came a resurgence of the voyeurizing and commodifying of the deaths of Black Americans. I, along with the wisdom of those who came and went before me, theorize that this viralization of Black death is yet another iteration of systemic racism deeply rooted in the history of Blackness as a spectacle. Likewise, as a white scholar, I must acknowledge my own privilege and contribution to this spectacle in even reporting these cases. That said, I also believe there is something powerful we can all learn from this trend of viral death videos that can also illuminate burgeoning work on digital memorialization practices and…

  • Maternal Grief in Medieval Miracle Stories by: Danielle Griego, PhD

    Return my daughter to me, Martyr Thomas! If anyone is the cause of this accident, it is me, her mother alone that must bear the blame for the crime, for it is I who did not send someone to supervise her from the dangers of childhood! I should have sent someone, but I was blind. Woe is me! Before God a crime of negligence has happened. Medieval miracle stories contained descriptions of the miraculous deeds performed by holy figures and were used to promote canonization. Although these accounts were ultimately collected to confirm someone’s sanctity, they can tell us a lot about the expectations that religious authors had about parenting.…

  • Why Are All the Wax Heads Caucasian? By: Sandi Baker

    Sitting at our desks while fidgeting in our mostly functional lab chairs, my mortuary science classmates and I waited in anticipation. It was the start of a new semester, a very exciting one at that, because this was the beginning of our Restorative Arts class. We aimlessly chattered, glancing around the room examining the skulls which would soon serve as the framework for our wax heads, a project that each future Maryland mortician must complete in order to obtain his/her/their degree. Suddenly, I noticed that all of the wax heads were monochromatic, pinkish-white – supposedly representative of the skin tone of your “average” decedent. This struck me as odd. Looking…

  • Chinese Miners’ Burials in British Columbia by: Robyn S. Lacy

    Today I’d like to discuss the often overlooked contributions of the Chinese miners who traveled to British Columbia (BC) in the mid-late 19th century to seek their fortunes during the Fraser Valley and Wild Horse River Gold Rushes. It would be an understatement to say that Canadian history has been whitewashed by European and Euro-Canadian points of view, with examples such as a) the lack of understanding of the Japanese Internment Camps in BC, b) common knowledge that enslaved people escaped to Canada but not that enslaved people were also bought and sold here, and c) the brutal history of the Indigenous residential schools, recently illuminated for Canadians by artist…

  • Cultural Death Illiteracy as Applied Terror Management Theory by: Dr. Tamara Waraschinski

    Born and reared in Germany, as well as lived in Australia for a little over a third of my life, I never envisioned experiencing such a cultural shock moving to the United States three years ago.  I just couldn’t imagine that there would be such a difference between Western countries that supposedly share the same cultural values of “democracy and freedom”. I wasn’t prepared for the abject poverty that marbles its way through the fabric of this society. I wasn’t prepared for a society of people who seem drained, exhausted, in miserable health, overworked but forever guilt-ridden about taking much needed time off. I didn’t expect that people in the…

  • Coroner’s Inquests as a Source for Radical Death Studies by: Sarah Lirley McCune, Ph.D

    In late-nineteenth-century St. Louis, white, middle-to-upper-class, college-educated men conducted death investigations to determine how and why someone came to an unexpected or suspicious death.  A similar practice was carried out in many other American cities.  Although they had professional training as physicians and followed statutes regarding the Office of the Coroner, these men carried with them assumptions about race, class, and gender.  How, then, can the records they left behind de-center whiteness and highlight the intersections of race, class, and gender?  Because coroners interviewed witnesses to render their verdicts—often poor-to-working class men and women, immigrants, prostitutes, people with addictions, and others whom society deemed “other.”  Women, African Americans, and immigrants…