Death, Memory, and Material Culture

Death, Memory, and Material Culture

Death, Memory, and Material Culture

Death, Memory, and Material Culture

Synopsis

¿ How do the living maintain ongoing relationships with the dead in Western societies?¿ How have the residual belongings of the dead been used to evoke memories?¿ Why has the body and its material environment remained so important in memory-making?Objects, images, practices, and places remind us of the deaths of others and of our own mortality. At the time of death, embodied persons disappear from view, their relationships with others come under threat and their influence may cease. Emotionally, socially, politically, much is at stake at the time of death. In this context, memories and memory-making can be highly charged, and often provide the dead with a social presence amongst the living. Memories of the dead are a bulwark against the terror of forgetting, as well as an inescapable outcome of a life's ending.Objects in attics, gardens, museums, streets and cemeteries can tell us much about the processes of remembering. This unusual and absorbing book develops perspectives in anthropology and cultural history to reveal the importance of material objects in experiences of grief, mourning and memorializing. Far from being 'invisible', the authors show how past generations, dead friends and lovers remain manifest - through well-worn garments, letters, photographs, flowers, residual drops of perfume, funerary sculpture. Tracing the rituals, gestures and materials that have been used to shape and preserve memories of personal loss, Hallam and Hockey show how material culture provides the deceased with a powerful presence within the here and now.

Excerpt

This book is about relationships between death, memory and material culture. Death is a life crisis, a conjuncture of changes and transformations of the physical body, social relations and cultural configurations. Death is a phase of transition involving loss and adjustment and throughout this study we examine the ways in which memory comes into play as an important aspect of the process of dying, mourning and grief. Facing death, either of the self or of others, has come to entail ritualized social practices that mobilize domains of material objects, visual images and written texts. Focusing upon Western experiences, we attend to a diverse range of materials, associated with death in historical and contemporary contexts. In doing so we examine issues of metaphor, temporality, and social space, all of which impinge upon and shape memory as a cultural process and a social experience. By process we mean sets of interconnected practices that unfold over time, involving material and embodied dimensions. Developing anthropological and historical perspectives we find memories at work in visual images of death, in textual forms and in rituals which we trace as interconnected fields, related in their focus on the body – its structures, capacities and limits. We explore memory through the material objects that acquire meanings and resonances through embodied practice such as the wearing of mourning attire, or the ritualized writing of wills, together with the material objects that come to represent or form extensions of the body – from funeral effigies to photographs. This takes us into personalized interior spaces and domestic settings as emotional realms of dying, mourning and remembrance. Thus we analyse the ‘everyday’ contexts of memory making that have received comparatively less attention when we note the sociological and historical work devoted to large scale, public forms of memorial and commemoration . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.