1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

American Death, and Being

In the U.S. today, death practices are changing rapidly and creatively. Not only did the cremation rate double between 2000 and 2015, but there has been a proliferation of new things to do with ashes – incorporating them into artificial reefs, making them into synthetic diamonds, or blending them into vinyl records. What do these new styles of death tell us about U.S. cosmology and values? What is the status of the subject/object divide in daily life? What is a ‘person’ before and after death? What does the secular afterlife look like? Using ethnographic interviews with funeral directors, death midwives, and object designers collected as part of a documentary film product, I will attempt to outline what a populist American theory of being might be. In so doing, I argue against some of the current trends in the anthropology of ontology.

Event Date: 
Friday, 17 March 2017 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Shannon Lee Dawdy
Speaker Title: 
Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Chicago