Rad Death Blog

Please excuse our appearance while our website is under construction.
New website coming in summer 2022!

Unbreakable Connections: Memorial Art & Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two-Sprit People (MMIWG2S)

by Alexandra Weiss Where do you go to grieve when someone you love is missing? How do you mourn for someone stolen away, whose disappearance or murder has gone un- or under-reported, has not been solved, and whose murderer has gone unpunished? These questions have been faced by thousands of Indigenous people across North America during the decades-long crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and Two Spirit people (MMIWG2S). It is hard to document the scope of the MMIWG2S crisis. These disappearances and murders have not been prioritized by law enforcement or received much media coverage,so many cases go un-
Read More

Field Stones, Post Holes, and Unmarked Graves: Burial Commemoration Beyond the Gravestone

by Robyn S. Lacy The capitalist market of death and burial is nothing new for North Americans. Overpriced caskets, expensive urns, and strangely specific rules in different cemeteries add an increasingly overwhelming price tag for which individuals must deal. The commodification of death as discussed by Jessica Mitford (1963) is a practice old enough in North America to have been the subject of study for decades. While artistry goes into the creation of gravestones and memorials today, much of the lettering and design is sandblasted or cut with other machinery, even though historically the lettering and iconography often were hand-carved by
Read More

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

by Kaylee P. Alexander, PhD “I am angry. I am anguished. I am heartbroken. I am hallowed out.” RENÉE ATER, “IN MEMORIAM: I CAN’T BREATHE,” MAY 29, 2020. 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. What about
Read More

Justice for Nadia: Remembrance and Grief from Femicides in Mexico

by Marlene Melissa Davila Death is never easy. Not even in a country where millions celebrate Día de los Muertos surrounded by cheerful music and colorful decorations, as a means of remembering their deceased loved ones. For most, death is a journey of grief and sorrow that ends with resilience: “moving on” as we tend to call it. But for those like Blanca Martínez, who lost her daughter, Nadia, in March 2020, it is a never-ending journey of unresolved pain and loss. On March 8, 2020 (International Women’s Day), Nadia was violently murdered while driving to her home in Salamanca. To date,
Read More

How an Embalming License Freed Sarah Corleto from an Abusive Husband

by Kami Fletcher, PhD In November 1912, Saveria Fidance Corleto (later renamed Sarah) swore in a Wilmington, Delaware court that her husband of seventeen years, Anthony Corleto had “treated her with extreme cruelty.” Saveria testified that the physical abuse started in September 1910. She went on to state that Anthony frequently hit her, knocked her down and that the beatings were so severe that they left visible marks and bruises on her body. Italian Funeral Director and first woman licensed as an embalmer in the state of Delaware, Sarah Corleto, decides to close her undertaking businesse and join the Army Nurses Corp
Read More

Cemetery Credibility and What It Means to Be a Descendant

by Adam Rosenblatt, PhD In a video posted on YouTube in late May, three women sit on chairs outdoors. Their green surroundings might take a moment to recognize as a cemetery. You can just make out the headstones and small American flags on the grass. These women—Viola Baskerville, Veronica Davis, and the Rev. Delores McQuinn—are prominent voices in Richmond, Virginia’s African American community. Davis is a public historian and preservationist, and McQuinn currently sits in the Virginia House of Delegates. Baskerville is a lawyer and former politician. She opens this video, titled “Evergreen Cemetery Legacy,” with a key fact: she has
Read More

African Diasporic Bereavement Stories in the UK Through ‘Repatriationscapes’

by George Gumisiriza “I could smell something,” said a Gambian participant in my pilot focus group, a group I assembled to research contemporary studies on death in the UK in order to understand how studies have ignored Afrocentric perspectives and how Western stories have evaded Afrocentric deaths, grief, and losses only confining them to outside the mainstream.   The focus group, by this time, broken into small groups, consulted with each other in their native languages expressing a deep-seated emotion over not only the idea that their fellow Gambian had not been sent back home for proper burial but also that where
Read More

Confederate Monuments in Cemeteries, Reminders That We Cannot All Rest In Peace

by Sandra Baker I will never forget the moment our hearse drove through the confederate section at a local cemetery. Roughly a dozen family cars trailed behind and my heart sunk as we passed by each one of them. As we came to our tent, a statue of General Robert E. Lee was only a few yards away. While easing the casket out of the back of the hearse, Lee stared, valiantly posed atop a rearing horse, as if ready for battle. I wondered how many other African American burials General Lee had been a part – during his life as
Read More

Under Block Houses on Zachodnia Street: Liquidation of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Lodz, Poland

by Lucja Lange Lodz is an atypical Polish city. Historically it was viewed as the “Promised Land” and “City of Dreams”. Some say that it grew in “American speed.” Industrialization, driven by dreams of wealth and a good life, brought people from around the world, seeking new opportunities. But with this influx of new communities, there grew a need for community burial grounds. At first, the Jewish inhabitants of Lodz had to take their deceased to Lutomiersk or Strykow, but on April 4, 1811, together with the Society of the Holy and Nursing of the Sick, a local cemetery was established at
Read More

Death and Dignity: The Exploitation of Corpses in Guanajuato’s Mummy Museum

by Marlene Melissa Davila Naked corpses stand alongside each other with expressions of suffering in the dark corridors of the maze-like museum. Where everything is seemingly arranged to shock the viewer. “Welcome to the Mummy Museum, it’s 100 pesos for two tickets.” Says a woman behind the counter. It’s been almost 150 years since the state of Guanajuato in Mexico opened its Mummy Museum with more than one hundred mummified corpses ranging from 7-month-old fetuses to 70-year-old men and women. Over the last 10 years this museum has attracted thousands of visitors, all hoping to catch a morbid glimpse of the extraordinary effects
Read More

Reclaiming Marginalized Deaths through Data Analysis, The Case of Geer Cemetery

by Kaylee P. Alexander, PhD In Plain Sight: Reflections Past & Actions Present in Durham’s Geer Cemetery is an outdoor educational exhibit examining the history of Durham, NC’s first public African American cemetery.  The exhibit runs through April 3, 2021 and is spearheaded by Nicholas Levy and Debra Taylor Gonzales of the Friends of Geer Cemetery (FoGC), a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation, and reclamation of Geer Cemetery and its attendant histories.  In Plain Sight came together through countless hours of volunteer research, writing, and installation work to recover and share the history of this space and the individuals
Read More

Recording and Recovering the Past: African-American Cemeteries in Athens, Georgia

by Tracy L. Barnett African-American cemeteries across the South are vanishing—not from descendants’ memories, but from the physical landscape itself. For decades, infrastructure development and urban renewal projects have disrupted the final resting places of Black men, women, and children. Across the United States, but especially in the South, white city and university leaders have knowingly and unknowingly disinterred Black bodies, destroyed gravestones, and repurposed cemetery grounds. In other instances, lack of perpetual care has allowed the landscape itself to strangle the dead. Ivy, kudzu, wisteria, and other fast-growing plants choke fieldstone, marble, and granite tombstones—all but obscuring them from the
Read More

#MMIW: The Life and Death of Stolen Sisters

by Anna V. Bayona-Strauss 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. (CW: suicide, sexual assault, descriptions of graphic violence)  On July 3, 2017, in the Arizona portion of Diné Tribal Nation, the lands of a tribe often referred to by the exonym “Navajo,” the day was permeated by blinding sunshine and dry desert heat. Ariel Begay, a bright, witty 26-year-old Diné woman, was picked up from her family home
Read More

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,
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

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
Read More

Cultural Death Illiteracy as Applied Terror Management Theory

by Tamara Waraschinski, PhD 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
Read More

Coroner’s Inquests as a Source for Radical Death Studies

by Sarah Lirley McCune, PhD 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,
Read More

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
Read More

Child Death and Parental Mourning in the Middle Ages

by Danielle Griego, PhD Child, you are a pilgrim born in sinyou wander in this treacherous world, look ahead!Death is hiding around a dark cornerwith a gust to cast down the kin of Adam as he has done beforeChildyour days are numbered, your travels planned,whichever way you go, north or east,Death shall happen to you with bitter misery in your breast.1 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
Read More

Decolonizing Death Studies

by Kami Fletcher, PhD 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
Read More

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