Friday, September 11, 2015

"A much poorer death culture."

"Anthropologists, and in particular those from Western societies, stand in a peculiar relation to death. They have often had a brief personal brush with death at home--an aunt, a grandparent or a favorite cousin--but only become engrossed in the cultural complexities of death, mourning, and burial once in the field. This situation contains several dangers. The ethnographic experience overshadows their general understanding of death, misleads them into believing that their own culture has a much poorer death culture than that of their hosts, and may result in a distortive opposition between the ordinary, shallow, secular death culture of Western society and the intricate, profound, sacred death rituals elsewhere."

Something to ponder, for all those examining current burial, memorial and grieving practices.

From the introduction to Death, Mourning, and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader, by Antonius C. G. M. Robben (Blackwell, 2004).