• Nana’s Wig

    by Erica Gerald Mason This article is part of The Death Gap Series, a collaboration between The Order Of The Good Death and The Collective For Radical Death Studies. The series examines the various ways in which systemic racism impacts the way BIPOC communities experience death and access end-of-life care. It’s Saturday morning in the summertime, and you are seven. Your grandmother takes you to Fulton Street in Brooklyn. She’s shopping for a wig, and she’d like you to hurry up. Saturday is the worst day to buy wigs. You and your sister follow her as she surveys the wigs in the shop. As in all things, but especially wig shopping, your Nana takes her…

  • Whose Green Burial is it Anyway?

    by Corinne Elicone This article is part of The Death Gap Series, a collaboration between The Order Of The Good Death and The Collective For Radical Death Studies. The series examines the various ways in which systemic racism impacts the way BIPOC communities experience death and access end-of-life care. In 1889, over 100 years before the first conservation cemetery was founded in the United States, a man who was just beginning his journey to become “The Father of Environmentalism” sat deflated in a high mountain pasture in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. John Muir had emerged from his campsite, furious to see the devastation that a flock of sheep had wrought on the grassland of…

  • Luxury vs. Obligation: Israelite Burials in 19th-Century Paris

    by Kaylee P. Alexander, PhD In 1804, following decades of cemetery complications in major cities such as Paris, Napoleon issued a series of burial reforms that were to radically transform the ways in which French citizens would henceforth be buried. Still the basis for French burial laws to this day, the Decree of 23 Prairial year XII (June 12, 1804) guaranteed, for the first time in French history, distinct burial plots in public cemeteries for all citizens regardless of class or religion. However, burial would only be permanent for a small fraction of the population who met the considerable financial criteria for purchasing a perpetual concession, a land grant that…

  • 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…

  • 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.”1 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…

  • 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…

  • 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…

  • 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.1 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…

  • 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…