Close-up picture of purple flowers

Dr Ciara Henderson

Independent Scholar, Ireland

As an interdisciplinary researcher, I am interested in human connection and empathy and the ways in which responses to death are socialised. My research focuses on bereaved parenthood, and explores contemporary and historic responses to maternal, child and reproductive mortality both from a social and policy perspective. In addition, I have a strong interest in after death communications. The history of Irish death and burial through the 19th and 20th century is complex, and I trace the evolution of funeral customs through this period, for both adults and babies, in urban, rural and institutional environments. I explore what constitutes normative death and burial and what makes a funeral ‘typical’. More specifically, I examine traditional and historical responses to perinatal deaths (stillbirth, miscarriage and neonatal death). In Ireland, segregated burial grounds known as killeens (cillíní) have long been used for such ‘deviant’ burials and these remain both a source of fascination and controversy. For the duration of my PhD I was affiliated with the Trinity Centre for Maternity Care Research, and based in the School of Nursing & Midwifery, Trinity College Dublin.

Henderson, C. (2022) ‘Innocence lost: perinatal death in twentieth-century Ireland’, in S. Ryan (ed.) Birth and the Irish: A Miscellany, Dublin: Wordwell Books, 272–277.

Henderson, C. (2024, forthcoming) ‘Catharín na Leanbh (Village of Children): the use of cillíní for the burial of the unbaptised in rural Ireland in the 19th and 20th centuries’ in R. Lacy & R. Spinelli, R. (eds) Displays of Grief and Commemoration in Our Communities, New York: Berghahn Books.

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