Exploring Death in the Twenty-First Century: Field Research Results

Convenors: Asher Colombo (University of Bologna) & Francesca Pasquali (University of Bergamo).

Contact: francesca.pasquali@unibg.it

The topic of death and dying now constitutes a strategic sub-disciplinary field in sociology, even if it needs to be deeper investigated, particularly in southern Europe. The changes in social practices related to death and dying are, in fact, generating new links between the public and private sphere, and they are claiming for new theoretical and empirical work.

Just to mention a few: the shift from burial to cremation, the rapid diffusion, at least in Italy, of funeral homes and the changes of funeral rites that are now facing a variety that might confirm the trend, enunciated by Walter towards the so-called “neo-modern”, highly personalized, death. Mourning practices are changing with the increasingly important role of social media as a space for communication of death, grief and memorialization. On the organizational side, the funeral industry is broadening its field of operation and it is developing new commercial and marketing strategies. At the same time, people working in the industry are gaining in status and social acceptability.

Open Questions

In this context, the panel offers itself as a place for gathering field research experiences on death that will highlight the ongoing change (and the differences) happening in European society addressing the following questions:

- Are death and its rituals undergoing redefinitions toward an increased personalization and re-negotiation of public/private relations?

- Are the relationships between the living and the dead changing, and how??

- Under what aspects beliefs of life after death are changing? And what new practices do they activate?

- Are there any changes in the funeral industry and the administrative organization of death?

- How are digital platform shaping rituals of grief and mourning, post mortem bonds, and memorialization of the death?

- How are memorialization practices in general changing?

The panel welcomes either ethnographic or qualitative papers but attention will also be given to interdisciplinary papers that integrate, among others, anthropology, history, media studies, cultural studies, Internet studies. We also invite papers that engage critically with the methodological and theoretical challenges of undertaking ethnographic research on the topic.

Keywords

Death, funeral rites and ceremonies, grief and bereavement, memory and memorialization, death and social media, relationships between the living and the dead.

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