Andy Clayden, Jenny Hockey and Trish Green 2009

University of Sheffield, UK

Going back to nature: routes to disposal in the natural burial ground

The paper explores the reasons why people are choosing natural burial, either for themselves or a deceased relative/friend.  It presents data from a 3 year ESRC-funded programme of empirical work in UK natural burial grounds which is exploring the extent to which natural burial represents: creative resistance to modernist disposal strategies, as epitomised in the cemetery; an aspect of the re-enchantment of death and a resurgence of Victorian romanticism; a form of ecological immortality expressed in a  more collective response to death; or an indicator of postmodern trends towards more individualised lifestyle options?  Preliminary data suggest that answers to these questions lie in the very particular responses of individuals to the diversity of interpretations of the concepts of natural burial.  Our paper therefore examines the key dimensions of this diversity for the users of these burial grounds – and makes the often-close relationship between bereaved people and the new providers of natural burial a starting point in an account of the factors which influence individuals who have chosen this disposal option.


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