CBC Radio: ‘Ideas from the Trenches – The Living Dead’

You can listen again to this fascinating radio programme broadcast by CBC that includes a conversation with Prof. Tony Walter. The programme is described as follows:

There are about 50,000 PhD candidates in Canada. Most of them toil away for years in relative obscurity. This is the debut of an occasional series which tries to turn their research into an hour of radio. In this inaugural episode called Ideas from the Trenches – The Living Dead, producers Tom Howell and Nicola Luksic follow the work of PhD student Myriam Nafte, who studies the circulation and use of human remains in Western society. And they find unexpected connections between the living and the dead.
Participants in the program (in order of appearance):

Dan Rahimi – Archeologist and vice-president of gallery development at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto.

Robert Pogue Harrison – Professor of Italian Literature at Stanford University and author of The Dominion of the Dead.

Wayne Belger – photographer and visual artist based in Tuscan, Arizona.

Joel Peter Witkin – photographer based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Tony Walter – Director of the Centre for the Study of Death and Society in Bath, UK.

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Thanatos journal: Death and the media

Thanatos have just published a journal volume dedicated to the discussion of death and the media. The great news for all you non-academic but interested folks is that this volume is readily available to download from the Thanatos website. The editors-in-chief write the following:

“The idea to publish this special issue on Media and Death originated in a one-day workshop organized by a group of Finnish and international scholars specialized in the study of media and death. The workshop was held on June 6th, 2013 at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies in collaboration with Human Mortality project. In analysing media and death and the related mediatized practices of death in different media contexts several questions were raised by the participants during that day. Whose death matters in today’s public culture? To whom does it matter? Under what conditions does death matter? What is at the centre of the contemporary ritualisation of public death? From what source do these mediatized practices of death draw their power?” (Sumiala & Hakola 2013)


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Corpses, Technologies and Cultures

Any scholars interested in corpses, waste and new technologies may be as fascinated and interested as I am to learn of this blog and CFP so I wanted to share it:

Discard Studies…exploring throw-away culture have a CFP entitled ‘Corpses, Technologies, and Cultures’

To match feature JAPAN/DEATH


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Call for Papers: ‘Designing Death: Fashioning ends of life and beyond

Calling all academic colleagues interested in death, design and enlightenment ideas, I encourage you to submit a paper to our panel at next year’s ASA conference to be held in Edinburgh!

CFP for ‘Designing Death: Fashioning ends of life and beyond’ panel

ASA2014: Decennial Conference


19th-22nd June 2014

Deadline for paper abstract submission is 5th January 2014.

Paper abstracts of 250 words maximum submitted via the web link below. None members and students are welcome to submit a paper abstract to our panel. For further information see:


We look forward to hearing from you!

Dr Hannah Rumble and Dr Arnar Arnason

(Dept. of Anthropology, University of Aberdeen)

Panel Summary:

This panel presents research from across disciplines and cultures to discuss the many ways in which the legacy of the Enlightenment endures or is challenged in funerary practices and expectations surrounding end-of-life.

It could be argued that an enduring legacy of the Enlightenment is the persistent ideological emphasis upon reason and individualism rather than faith, tradition and emotion in Western public and cultural life. Such an emphasis, always suspect, is thrown into particularly acute relief when confronting mortality. This panel seeks to bring together scholars’ work from across disciplines and cultures to discuss the many ways in which the legacy of the Enlightenment endures or is challenged in funerary practices and expectations surrounding end-of-life. The Enlightenment’s aim to reform society through reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method can be exemplified by various cultural designs of death; not least the development of cremation and discourses surrounding suicide, euthanasia and organ donation amongst many other examples. In speaking of designing death we are both alluding to the agency of people in being creators of things or processes that are fashioned in relation to death and dying, as well as what is culturally designed through an encounter with mortality. And in the process of designing an encounter with death, to what extent are beauty, order and harmony qualities that are valued? How are encounters with death and dying both products of the designer and the designed? And how does the legacy of the Enlightenment endure or become obsolete in the process of designing death or in the design itself? We actively encourage an engagement with these questions from a diverse range of disciplinary, theoretical and ethnographic perspectives.

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Design for Death

Thank you to Dr Karen Wilson Baptist, Associate Professor and Acting Head of the Department of Landscape Architecture at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg who alerted me to this wonderful design competition:


I’d love to hear what your favourite design is, so please feel free to comment.

Personally, I love the foldable cane coffin and whilst Emergence is clever, I remain unconvinced. But Family Tree is a great design concept and would not require any change in current attitudes, expectations and ritual regarding death and memorials in my own country, (Britain).

…I rather suspect that we’re not ready for the contemporary mourning practice proposed by Ritual Skin, though as an anthropologist I love the sentiment behind the design!

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Guatemalan exhumations

A stunning photography assignment on the exhumation of bodies in Guatemala called De las tinieblas hacia la luz was bought to my attention today by a doctoral student in my department at the University of Aberdeen. Thank you Paolo Gruppuso!

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