Elsbeth Robson, Julie Seymour & Trish Green 2019

University of Hull

Forever young? Spaces of burial, cremation and memorialisation of children

The death of children is memorialised variously across cultures and generation, having moved beyond the cemetery in recent decades. When a child dies today there may be multiple material sites of remembrance – the home, the roadside following traffic fatalities, the school gates, central public places, online virtual memorials, as well as traditionally-commemorated places of burial such as cemeteries, graveyards and gardens of remembrance. This exploratory paper uses a spatial lens to seek to understand changing spaces and family practices associated with the public memorialisation of infants and children in urban England. The contribution will present preliminary documentation of public spatial expressions of remembering untold private stories of childhood loss at the interface of children’s geographies and death studies. Using ethnography, photography and interview extracts the authors will demonstrate some preliminary mapping of particular commemorative and memorial spaces of children in Hull – a city with histories of loss and socio-economic deprivation associated with higher infant /child death rates. By documenting how intimate embodied loss and remembering are commemorated in public spaces we seek to understand the changing spaces and practices of burial, cremation and memorialisation of children in the twentieth and twenty-first century. The research builds on previous studies by geographers that have initiated study of the spatialities of death, mourning and remembrance, bringing to the fore acknowledgement of how death and dying are intensely anchored in place and space. Some suggestions will be made relating to guidance on managing conflict in cemeteries over memorialisation of graves of infants and children.


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