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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In the United States today, death is undergoing a rapid renovation. From an exponential increase in cremations to a proliferation of funeral options, ‘tradition’ no longer dictates how the dead are dealt with, nor remembered. One of the most notable trends is a proliferation in object-centred death practices, including votive offerings, designer coffins, object memorials, and grave-goods. This chapter briefly describes these phenomena and their possible historic, economic, and cultural conditions via snapshots of three quite distinct American cemeteries. While some observers explain these changes due to the influences of consumer demand and mass production, others note a more general trend towards unique and personalized memorials that eschew market standardization. The chapter argues that these are not necessarily contradictory explanations. In fact, American death practices, like death practices in ancient societies, are telling indicators of how personhood is conceived of in life.

Keywords: death, cemeteries, United States, consumption, personhood

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