• 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…

  • A Cemetery Angel and the American HIV/AIDS Crisis by: Justin Cook

    Pictured above is the AIDS Quilt Project, perhaps the most recognizable memorial for victims of HIV/AIDS. The quilt is a collection of hand-made fabric squares memorializing those lost to HIV/AIDS. The quilt includes celebrities such as Freddie Mercury and Michel Foucault, but more often than not the names were those of everyday people. For some, perhaps for most, this was the only memorial they received in life. This blog will discuss those who might not be named there. Those who may have never received a memorial at all. This is the story of one small town Arkansas woman who loved and cared for queer bodies dying from this disease in…

  • Child Death and Parental Mourning in the Middle Ages by: Danielle Griego, Ph.D.

    Child, you are a pilgrim born in sin you wander in this treacherous world, look ahead! Death is hiding around a dark corner with a gust to cast down the kin of Adam as he has done before… Child…your days are numbered, your travels planned, whichever way you go, north or east, Death shall happen to you with bitter misery in your breast. Unlike the lullabies we think of today, medieval lyrics were not always meant to soothe the singer or recipient. This excerpt from the fourteenth-century lullaby has a dark tone and underscores the idea that death lurks around every corner, ready to strike even the youngest members of…

  • Decolonizing Death Studies by: Kami Fletcher, Ph.D.

    For those not readily familiar, Death Studies can be defined as the interdisciplinary study of death, dying, burial, and last rites rituals.  Scholars, students, and healthcare professionals alike use death as a lens to understand or even construct past civilizations and cultures.  Archeologists use cemeteries to do the deep dives into history, excavating burial remains to reconstruct personhood and kinship patterns.  Literary scholars position epitaphs as poems navigating and uncovering thoughts and thought processes of generations long ago.  Historians position the cemetery as an archive, a treasure trove of historical records that is the window into past lives that doubles as a mirror to the present. Death Studies, in all…

  • The #RadDeathStudiesBlog

    This is an Exorcism of Death Studies – scholarship by Death Scholars, Death Practitioners, Death Studies Studies who are decolonizing the cannon, while calling for more inclusive deathways