Rad Death Blog

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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, …

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 …

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, …

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, …

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 …

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 …

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. …

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 …

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 …

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- …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …

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 …
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