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The New Death

Mortality and Death Care in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Shannon Lee Dawdy and Tamara Kneese

There is perhaps no object as uncanny as the corpse, and few topics yield as much cross-cultural anxiety as human mortality. Yet beliefs and practices around death never stand still. This book brings together scholars who are intrigued by today’s rapidly changing death practices and attitudes. New and different ways of treating the body and memorializing the dead are proliferating across global cities. What are the beliefs, values, and ontologies entwined with these emergent death practices? Are we witnessing a shifting relationship between the living and the dead?

Using ethnographic, historical, and media-based approaches, the contributors to this volume focus on new attitudes and practices around mortality and mourning. Together, the chapters coalesce around the argument that two major currents run through the new death—reconfigurations of temporality and of intimacy. Whether they draw on “tradition” or on evolving technologies, people are reaching for new memorial objects to keep the dead present in their lives and new rituals to manage the timing and tempo of death. Pushing back against the folklorization endemic to anthropological studies of death practices and the whiteness of death studies as a field, the chapters strive to override divisions between the Global South and the Anglophone world, focusing instead on syncretization, globalization, and magic within the mundane.

2022. 352 pp., 6 x 9, 15 halftones

Contributors: Ellen Badone, Anya Bernstein, Shannon Lee Dawdy, Matthew Engelke, Abou Farman, Casey Golomski, LaShaya Howie, Jenny Huberman, Tamara Kneese, Huwy-min Lucia Liu, Philip R. Olson, Stephanie Schiavenato, Margaret Schwartz, Ruth E. Toulson

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Shannon Lee Dawdy and Tamara Kneese

Part I. Mortality

Chapter One. Terminality: Technoscientific Eschatology in the Anthropocene
Abou Farman

Chapter Two. Old Men, Young Blood: Transhumanism and the Promise and Peril of Immortality
Jenny Huberman

Chapter Three. A Responsible Death: Valuing Life from Mortality Tables to Wearables
Tamara Kneese

Chapter Four. Deathnography: Writing, Reading, and Radical Mourning
Casey Golomski

Chapter Five. “For the One Life We Have”: Temporalities of the Humanist Funeral in Britain
Mathew Engelke

Interlude. Notes from the Field

Chapter Six. Loss in/of the Business of Black Funerals
LaShaya Howie

Chapter Seven. Cuddling Death: Exploring the Materiality of Reproductive Loss
Stephanie Schiavenato

Part II. Death Care

Chapter Eight. The Haptics of Grief: A Taxonomy of Touch in Death Care
Margaret Schwartz

Chapter Nine. The Embalmer’s Magic
Shannon Lee Dawdy

Chapter Ten. To Bear a Corpse: Home Funerals and Epistemic Cultures in US Death Care
Philip R. Olson

Chapter Eleven. Making a Living from Death: Chinese State Funeral Workers under the Market Economy
Huwy-min Lucia Liu

Chapter Twelve. Grief Transformed: New Rituals in a Singaporean Chinese Funeral Parlor
Ruth Toulson

On Endings

Commentary: The New Death
Ellen Badone

Afterword: Atoms, Star Dust, and Fungi: Death and Secular Eschatologies
Anya Bernstein

List of Contributors