This list includes abstracts from the Colloquium since 2005. Papers from the Virtual Colloquium held in November 2023 are marked [v].

Brenda Mathijssen 2023

University of Groningen

True nature burial: Unearthing the politics of defining an emerging death practice in The Netherlands [v]

This paper discusses the emergence of nature burial in the Netherlands by drawing attention to the politics of defining this practice. On the basis of qualitative interviews and the systematic mapping of nature burial sites, it discusses how is nature burial defined, and by whom? What practices are included and excluded by these definitions, and why? By tending to such questions, the paper draws attention to the often-overlooked politics of nature burial. As a ‘green’ or ‘natural’ death practice, […]

Brent Elliott 2023

Formerly Royal Horticultural Society

Disaster memorials in British cemeteries

Britain has a long history of memorials for battles and martyrdoms, erected for celebration rather than mourning. The first war memorials dedicated to the ordinary soldiers (Waterloo and the Crimean War) were erected in cemeteries, with the themes of celebration and mourning mingled. But in the 1860s, a decade after the Crimean War monuments, memorials began to be erected in cemeteries to commemorate lives lost in maritime disasters, followed by the end of the century by commemorations of purely civilian landbound disasters. […]

Ciara Henderson 2023

Trinity College, Dublin

Inse na Leanbh (Village of Children): the use of cillíní for the burial of the unbaptised in rural Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries [v]

Though Ireland possesses a rich death tradition, such traditions appear absent for infants and more specifically, stillborn infants. This absence is understood in Western culture to be a response to Christian theology and its teaching regarding the liminal status of the unbaptised. Stillborn children were unable to receive the rite of baptism and thus remained unbaptised and consequently were not permitted to be buried within their spiritual community, resulting in separate burial. Burials thus occurred in designated Children’s Burial Grounds (Cillíní) which date ‘overwhelmingly’ to the post-medieval period (Murphy, […]

David Ocon & Wei Ping Young 2023

Singapore Management University

Bridging the nature-cultural heritage gap: evaluating sustainable entanglements through cemeteries in urban Asia [v]

The expanding footprint of urban Asian settlements and increasing living standards have put pressure on cemetery sites. Public health narratives and the sanctity associated with death matters in Asian urban landscapes have fed into the rhetoric of cemeteries as undesirable heritage spaces. Often lacking protection, many cemeteries have been exhumed, cleared, and relocated to allow room for new developments and infrastructure, risking the survival of this quiet element of the urban cultural patrimony. Within an Asian context, […]

F. İqbal Polat 2023

Middle East Technical University, Turkey

Shaping boundaries: the urban role of Istanbul’s extra-mural cemeteries in Byzantine and Ottoman periods

This paper examines two extramural cemeteries of Istanbul from its Byzantine and Ottoman past, focusing on how they shaped the spatial and social boundaries of the city. From antiquity to the present day, communal cemeteries have been located outside the city’s borders. In the 4th century, when Constantine built his city on the peripheral necropolis of Severus’ Byzantium, new cemeteries began forming outside the Constantinian wall. In the Ottoman period, the land outside the Theodosian walls was established as the city’s legitimate burial place and continues its function to this day. […]

Georgina Laragy 2023

Trinity College, Dublin

The burial of suicide in Ireland in the long 19th century [v]

In 1895 Smithsonian ethnographer and second-generation Irish man James Mooney noted that “The bodies of those lately buried turn over in their coffins when a suicide is deposited among them. So strong is the feeling in regard to self-destruction that in the rare instances where suicide has occrd [sic] the neighbouring cemeteries hav [sic] sometimes been guarded for days by parties determined to prevent the burial of the body near their departed kindred”.
The body of the suicide was rejected by both the living and the dead. […]

Georgina Robinson 2023

Durham University

Alkaline hydrolysis: a whistle-stop tour [v]

This paper seeks to provide a foundational understanding of how the funerary innovation of the alkaline hydrolysis (AH) of human corpses is likely to be adopted in the United Kingdom by covering four key areas of concern:

What does history tell us?
What do current funerary trends tell us?
What influence might the climate crisis have on changing normative funerary practices?
What does AH’s popularity in the USA tell us about its potential in the UK? […]

Harold Mytum and Anna Fairley 2023

University of Liverpool, UK

What to do when there’s no Roman Catholic cemetery: burial management at St. Patrick’s Church in the context of Liverpool’s 19th-century burial crisis

The 19th-century burial crisis in urban churchyards was ultimately resolved through the creation of cemeteries. Some of these were open to all denominations from the beginning, but others limited those who were accepted. In Liverpool, cemetery access was delayed for Roman Catholics, and there were few churchyards of that denomination, so when St. Patrick’s in Toxteth opened in 1829 it became a very popular choice for burial until compulsory closing of the city churchyards in 1854. […]

Krystian Puzdrakiewicz 2023

University of Gdańsk

Preserve the sacred: Attitudes towards recreational use of cemeteries and post-cemetery parks in Poland as a contrast to other Western countries [v]

Densely populated cities aim to facilitate the multifunctional use of urban public spaces within the context of the intensive and rational use of limited space resources. Cemeteries are an integral part of any city, but their use is deeply influenced by social factors. The recreational use of cemeteries varies, especially across cultural contexts and even within similar contexts. Based on the experiences of other Western countries, this article examines what recreational potential cemeteries and post-cemetery parks have in Poland. […]

Linda Levitt 2023

Stephen F. Austin State University

Cremation niches inspire creative means of commemoration [v]

Cremation has been a more frequent choice than burial in the United States since 2015, moving toward a decade of transforming funeral traditions. The growing popularity of cremation niches attests to the change in cultural memory as commemoration moves from official declarations to personal, narrative, and multifaceted memories. The inclusion of objects, photographs, and brief documents in a niche creates a sense of a person’s life in a complex, rich way that is not available on a gravestone. […]

Louis Dall'aglio 2023

Laboratoire EVS (UMR 5600), Lyon

From heterotopias to discipline and punish: on French cemeteries as disciplinary devices [v]

Matthew Gandy’s 2012 proposal of cemeteries as spaces where ‘heterotopic alliances’ can flourish, stemming from his reading of Foucault’s 1964 work on heterotopias, questions the ability of cemeteries to be places where strange forms of life, both human and non-human, can meet and form unexpected networks. The point of this communication is to contradict and complete Gandy’s theorization. We discuss Gandy’s idea of the cemetery’s “queerness” through the analysis of 32 French cemeteries’ rules and regulations. […]

Marie-Louise Rouget 2023

University of Galway

Grave concerns: the state of public cemetery records management in South Africa [v]

This paper investigates the relationship between public cemetery management and public records management in South Africa. The intersection of South African cemetery management and archives and records management has not previously been explored and represents a rich area for further research. In order to build a common ground for reflection and recommendations, this paper centres on the present regulatory framework for cemetery records management and how records management principles are understood and implemented by cemetery managers. […]

Oleg Reut 2023

University of Eastern Finland

Victory Day during the Continuing War: When the cemetery becomes political [v]

The title of the paper refers to the book When the Cemetery Becomes Political which raises the question: How can a cemetery – a place for the dead – evolve into a space that cultivates a political dynamic? This question gains increased significance in times of war when new graves emerge daily, the pain of war is often very physical and place-based: the experience of suffering is tied to matter and to place, both as tragedy unfolds and long after. […]

Robyn S. Lacy 2023

Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador

Sic finis: 17th-Century burial places and spaces in Northeast North America [v]

The burial landscape of the 17th-century in North America is an ever-present feature of historic cities across the northeast seaboard of North America, where many early European settlers landed. These burial spaces, which reflect not only the traditions from the setters’ home country, also show the development of new funeral and burial practices that would evolve and shape how we respond to the same events today. In this paper, based on my PhD research, I will demonstrate how burial grounds developed in the 17th century by British, […]

Sam Holleran 2023

University of Melbourne, Australia

Forever infrastructures: subterranean imaginaries, memorialisation, and care in Australia’s urban cemeteries

In Australian cities, historic cemeteries once located at the urban fringe are now central. To accommodate growth, many have been relocated or pared down, making way for parks. This article draws on an ongoing project examining the tension between memorialization, urban ecology, and recreation. It focuses on the attempts of community groups to digitally and physically document burials and maintain headstones in Pioneer Memorial Parks: cemeteries turned into parks where (most) headstones have been removed, but human remains linger belowground. […]

See Mieng Tan and Jan Xiong Tan 2023

Independent scholars

A controversial birth to cremation: how cremation came about in Singapore [v]

Land burials as opposed to cremation were traditionally supported by the Chinese owing to their strong beliefs of the afterlife, filial piety, and geomancy. However, cremation rates in Singapore for the Chinese and non-Muslims have risen significantly from 10% in the early 1960s to 97% in 2017, becoming the country’s default body disposal method. It is thought that the Chinese were discouraged from burying their ancestors in favour of cremation because of the Singapore government’s persistent and intense acquisition of Chinese cemeteries to regain land for national development. […]

Tristan Portier 2023

UMR Telemme-CNRS, Université d'Aix-Marseille

Cemeteries and the Established Church in Bath (UK) (1836-1864) [v]

The cemetery movement (ca. 1825-1850) was partly a reaction to the decay of Anglican churchyards and crypts, particularly in cities. Through private capital, promoters built cemeteries independent of parochial authorities, fuelled by a demand from wealthy urban classes and Nonconformists for alternative burial options. However, the Church’s reaction to these projects proved uneven: at a time when State-sponsored church construction was at its zenith, some viewed cemeteries as undermining the church’s spiritual monopoly over the dead, […]

Vishwambhar Nath Prajapati 2023

UNPG College Padrauna-Kushinagar, Padrauna, India

Shubh and Ashubh : Shaping the Hindu death culture [v]

Durkheim ([1912]2001) argues that the notion of sacred and profane exist in every religion of the world. Sacred is ideal and transcends everyday existence. The profane or unholy embraces those practices, ideas, persons, and things that are regarded with an everyday attitude of ordinariness, utility and acquaintance. The profane is also believed to contaminate the sacred. All Indic origin religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism) consider the body as mortal (Nashvar). In India death (mrtyu) is not opposite, […]

Janine Marriott 2022

Arnos Vale Trust, Bristol, UK

The never-ending spreadsheet of historic cemeteries in the UK and Ireland

When I began my research, I naively believed there would be a complete list of all the cemeteries in the UK and Ireland that I could use to underpin my research on public engagement. I was wrong, so I began one. This is a review of the interesting information I discovered whilst attempting this Sisyphean task; the lessons about the development of these sites that I learnt along the way – when does a cemetery start being a cemetery, […]

Ole Jensen 2022

The Open University, UK

‘We are like sugar in the milk’: Interpreting the Zoroastrian burial ground in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey

The Zoroastrian burial ground in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey, was opened in 1862 and constitutes a continuing record of Zoroastrian presence in the UK. The only burial ground of its kind in Europe, it adds to a continuing narrative of how the Zoroastrian diaspora adapts to changing political and cultural circumstances. Accordingly, the phrase We are like sugar in the milk refers to how Zoroastrians will merge into, and contribute positively to, a host society. Whereas Zoroastrian burial practices in South Asia and Iran are carried out as sky burials in ‘towers of silence’, […]

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The Cemetery Research Group runs two events a year: in May and in November. Follow the links and send in an abstract