Presence/absence, boundaries/excess, marked/unmarked and natural/postnatural are some of the comparative analytical frames discard studies frequently use. A new article in the Journal of Material Culture on natural burial, “Landscapes of the dead? Natural burial and the materialization of absence,” uses these frames in investigate burial practices.

Abstract

This article questions the emphasis on presence within material culture studies, using the example of a new burial landscape where the UK’s now conventional mortuary culture is often missing. The authors ask how the absences initiated by a death are articulated or materialized when body disposal and memorialization occur outwith a delineated boundary and identifiable buildings, a grave marked with head and kerb stones, and an embalmed body in a hardwood casket. Exploring data generated through an ESRC-funded project, the article examines tensions between the Natural Burial Movement’s goals and the practices of particular natural burial ground owners, managers and bereaved users. These practices, the authors argue, reflect the layers of competing orientations towards the landscape and nature that those involved in natural burial are heir to. In this way, the article draws out the ambiguities and contradictions implicit within the social practices that constitute natural burial and the landscapes within which it occurs.

Authors & Links to their other publications:
Jenny Hockey, University of Sheffield, UK
Trish Green, Hull York Medical School, UK
Andy Clayden. University of Sheffield, UK
Mark Powell, Newcastle University, UK

Natural Burial Site, Scraptoft, UK. Photo by Kate Jewell.