Yiannis Papadakis and Trine Sauning Willert 2022

University of Cyprus and The Greek Institute

Deathscapes, erasures and posthumous identities: a comparison of cemeteries in Denmark and Cyprus

This is a study of deathscapes at the margins of Europe, Denmark and Cyprus, focusing on cemeteries in their respective capitals. By employing comparison and situating the emergence of cemeteries within the two societies’ different socio-historical trajectories, we challenge key assumptions on cemeteries put forth by historians and sociologists related to cemeteries’ inexorable secularisation and the democratic prerogative of everyone, not just the elites, to their posthumous presence as named individuals. Specifically, we show how in Denmark’s case the predominance of social democracy entailed a preference for erasure in communal, anonymous graves rather than the posthumous presence of all as named individuals. In Cyprus instead, the rise of an ‘ethnarchic’ religious-orientated state hindered the secularization of cemeteries. Moreover, the symbolic focus of graves in Cyprus has not been on the atomized individual subject but on the family. These dynamics have given rise to different challenges: emptying out in Copenhagen’s cemeteries and overcrowding and expansion in Nicosia. Consequently, cemeteries have also come to be conceptualized in different ways: as sites of real estate in Cyprus and as public spaces in Denmark.


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