Julie Rugg 2021

Cemetery Research Group, University of York

Twenty years of cemetery study and eight core questions defining cemetery research

This paper reviews cemetery publications over the last twenty years and considers current trends and new directions. In these two decades, cemetery research has included contributions from the humanities, social sciences and sciences and its international reach has expanded substantially, echoing the expansion in geographic scope of death studies. The study of cemeteries has also benefitted from a spatial turn within a number of disciplines: within death studies, conceptions of ‘deathscapes’ or ‘necroscapes’ has expanded the range of questions asked of all locations where death is encountered. The paper is ordered using eight core questions that can be asked of any kind of space used for the interment of the dead either as a full body or as cremated remains: how do we define this space?; how has this space come to be?; what does this space mean?; what does this space look like?; how is it used?; what do we express through this space?; how is the space managed? and how is this space valued? The review indicates that the field of cemetery studies is intrinsically interdisciplinary, where nuance of meaning and degree of significance is best captured in the interstices between and interplay of separate discipline traditions, themes and methods.


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