Death Canon

Radical Death Studies Canon

This is an evolving canon

Please send all requests for scholarship to be included to

The literary canon is a collection of source material considered the most pertinent and influential to that field of study. The following are books, essays, blogs, chapters, journal articles, videos, websites, news/magazine articles, and databases that CRDS strongly recommends for inclusion on any Death and Dying course of study

It is an objective of the Radical Death Studies Canon to center scholarship that calls attention to the whiteness and Eurocentricism that undergirds the field of Death Studies by examining the systemic and colonial structures that impact death and dying the world over: racism, sexism, heteronormativity, capitalism, imperialism, classism, xenophobia.  The following scholarship goes beyond death awareness to include studies on how people of different cultures and backgrounds acknowledge deathways and participate in death work that is by and of their own cultural understandings – a culture reacting to these very systemic and colonial structures.  

BOOKS (listed alphabetically) includes textbooks, thesis/dissertation, graphic-novels, poetry books, stage plays

  • Aberration of the Mind: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War Era by Diane Sommerville
  • “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner (stage play) 
  • African American Entrepreneurship in Richmond, 1890-1940: The Funeral Industry and the Story of R.C. Scott by Michael Plater
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Black Female Vampires in African American Women’s Novels, 1977-2011: She Bites Back by Kendra Parker
  • Cemeteries & Gravemarkers: Voices of American Cultureby Richard Meyer (editor)
  • Chinese American Death Rituals: Respecting the Ancestorsby Sue Chung and Priscilla Wegars
  • Death and the American South by Craig Thompson and Lorri Glover (editors)
  • Death Becomes Her: Cultural Narratives of Femininity and Death in Nineteenth Century Americaby Sheri Weinstein and Elizabeth Dill
  • Death in Black and White: Death Ritual and Family Ecology by Charlton McIlwain
  • Death and Dying in New Mexico by Martina Will de Chaparro
  • Death and Dying: Views from Many Cultures by Richard Kalish (editor) 
  • Death and the Idea of Mexico by Claudio Lomnitz
  • Death in the New World: Cross-Cultural Encounters, 1492-1800 by Erik Seeman
  • Digging for the Disappeared: Forensic Science After Atrocity by Adam Rosenblatt
  • Dying to Eat: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Food, Death, and the Afterlife by Candi Cann 
  • Ethnicity and the American Cemetery by Richard Meyer (editor)
  • Gore Capitalism by Valencia Sayak
  • Harlem Book of the Dead by James Van Der Zee
  • Hidden History: African American Cemeteries in Central Virginia by Lynn Rainville
  • Hiroshima by John Hersey
  • In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe
  • Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
  • Lay Down Body: Living History in African American Cemeteriesby Roberta Hughes Wright and Wilbur B. Hughes III
  • LGBTQ-Inclusive Hospice and Palliative Care: A Practical Guide to Transforming Professional Practice by Kimberly Acquaviva
  • Love Cemetery: Unburying the Secret History of Slaves by China Galland
  • Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward
  • Mortal Dilemmas: The Troubled Landscape of Death in America by Donald Joralemon
  • Mortality, Immortality, and Other Life Strategiesby Zygmundt Bauman
  • My Father’s Wake: How the Irish Teach Us to Live, Love, and Dieby Kevin Toolis
  • “Nine Night” by Natasha Gordon (stage play)
  • Nine Years Under: Coming of Age in an Inner-City Funeral Home by Sheri Booker
  • Passed On: African American Mourning Stories, a Memorial by Karla Holloway
  • Pioneer Cemeteries: Sculpture Gardens of the Old Westby Annette Stott
  • Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth-Century America by Ann Braude
  • Regarding the Pain of Others by Susan Sontag
  • Revolutions in Sorrow: The American Experience of Death in Global Perspectiveby Peter Stearns
  • “ ‘Sealing the Bond’: A Qualitative Study of African American Funeral Rituals” by Danielle (Grant) Graham (dissertation)
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
  • Talking to the Dead: Kate and Maggie Fox and the Rise of Spiritualism by Barbara Weisberg
  • Talking to the Dead: Religion, Music, and Lived Memory Among Gullah/Geechee Women by LeRhonda Manigault-Bryan
  • Taryn Simon: An Occupation of Loss by Taryn Simon
  • The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Bone Woman: A Forensic Anthropologist’s Search for Truth in the Mass Graves of Rwanda, Bosina, Croatia and Kosovo by Clea Koff
  • The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicineby Lindsey Fitzharris
  • The Cancer Journals by Audre Lord
  • The Death Care Industry: African American Cemeteries and Funeral Homesby Roberta Hughes Wright and Wilbur Hughes III
  • The Famished Road by Ben Okri
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  • The Impossibility of Religious Freedom by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan
  • The Politics of Mourning: Death and Horror in Arlington National Cemetery by Micki McElya
  • The Power to Die: Slavery and Suicide in British North Americaby Terri Snyder
  • The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry
  • The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery by Vincent Brown
  • To Serve the Living: Funeral Directors and the African American Way of Death by Suzanne Smith
  • We Regret to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families: Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch
  • “What Lies Beneath: Reading the Cultural Landscape of Graveyard and Burial Grounds in African-American History and Literature” by Deborah Lafayette Henderson (dissertation)
  • Where the Line Bleeds by Jesmyn Ward
  • Women and the Material Culture of Death by Maureen Daly Groggin and Beth Fowkes Tobin (editors)
  • Women’s Ritual in Formative Oaxaca: Figure-Making, Divination, Death and the Ancestors by Joyce Marcus


JOURNAL ARTICLES (listed alphabetically)

  • “African Americans in Bereavement: Grief as a Function of Ethnicity” by Anne Laurie and Robert Neimeyer (Omega, 2008)
  • “Afro-American Gravemarkers in North Carolina” by M. Ruth Little (Markers, 1989)
  • “And Die in Dixie: Funerals, Death & Heaven in the Slave Community 1700-1865” by David Roediger (The Massachusetts Review,1981)
  • Chinese Graves and Gravemarkers in Hong Kong by Chun-shing Chow and Elizabeth Kenworthy Teather (Markers, 1998)
  • Composantos: Sacred Places of the Southwest” by Laura Sanborn (Markers, 1989)
  • “Exhuming Women’s Premarket Duties in the Care of the Dead” by Georganne Rundblad (Gender and Society, 1995)
  • “ ‘I Never Regretted Coming to Africa’: The Story of Harriet Ruggles Loomis’ Gravestone” by Laurel Gabel (Markers, 1999)
  • “ ‘Ours is a Business of Loyalty’: African American Funeral Home Owners in Southern Cities” by Beverly Bunch-Lyons (The Southern Quarterly, 2015)
  • Real Business: Maryland’s First Black Cemetery Journey’s Into the Enterprise of Death, 1870-1920” by Kami Fletcher (Thanatological Studies, 2014)
  • “Separated by Death and Color: The African American Cemetery of New Philadelphia, Illinois” by Charlotte King (Historical Archaeology, 2010)
  • Taking Care of Business: Canadian Community Mausoleums and the Commercialization of Death, 1912-1936” by Dorothy Smith (Markers, 2015)
  • “Up From the Grave: A Sociological Reconstruction of an African American Community from Cemetery Data in the Rural Midwest” by Gary Foster and Craig Eckert (Journal of Black Studies, 2003)
  • “The Changing Perceptions of Death and Burial: A Look at the Nigerian Obituaries” by Stella Ogbuagu (Anthropologica, 1989)
  • “The Plantation Community Cemetery: Reading Black and White Relationships in the Landscape” by Stacey Graham (Markers, 2015)
  • “Tributes in Stone and Lapidary Lapses: Commemorating Black People in Eighteenth-and Nineteenth-Century America” by Angelika Krüger-Kahloula (Markers, 1989)
  • Women’s Deathbeath Pulpits: From Quiet Congregants to Iconic Ministers” by Lisa Shaver (Rhetoric Review, 1995)

VIDEOS (listed alphabetically) across genres

  • Angels in America (2003)
  • Dayveon (2017)
  • Departures (2008)
  • Extremis (2016)
  • End Game (2018)
  • Fruitvale Station (2013)
  • Homegoings (2013)
  • Miss Evers Boys (1997)
  • Resting Place (1986)
  • Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (2018)
  • The Best Man Holiday (2013)
  • The Green Mile (1999)
  • The Hate You Give (2018)
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017)
  • The Naked Truth: Death by Delivery (2017)
  • Time: The Kalief Browder Story (2017)
  • Truth and Lies: Jonestown – Paradise Lost (2018)

WEBSITES/DATABSES (listed alphabetically)

NEWS/MAGAZINE ARTICLES (listed alphabetically)

© 2019 CRDS All Rights Reserved

The material on this page was created by the Collective for Radical Death Studies, and cannot be used, reproduced, or distributed without the express written permission of a CRDS board member.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close