568.4 Leaving a trace: The politics of cemeteries

Friday, August 3, 2012: 1:06 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Allison KIRKMAN , Sociology and Social Policy, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand

Scattered throughout many countries, in rural and urban areas, there are cemeteries. These are not just places for the disposal of bodies or ashes but also a place to remember the identity of the deceased. How these identities are portrayed has changed over time and depends also upon place. In this paper case studies of cemeteries are used to illustrate how the cemetery can be a site for teaching sociology and to highlight the relevance of visual methods in this. I have used the cemetery as a teaching and learning site in both sociology of death and dying and research methods undergraduate courses. Only visual representations can do justice to the stories cemeteries can tell us about those who are now dead and some of the social conditions of the communities they lived in. The paper explores the strengths and limitations of nonobstrusive observational methods in cemetery research and also examines the ethics of such research methods.