Remote, Restricted, and Redesigned: Funerals in the time of Coronavirus

In June 2020, the DeathTech Research Team hosted a virtual roundtable discussion with death scholars and practitioners in Australia, the UK and the US, to share how funerals have changed under the coronavirus pandemic and to discuss what this might mean for the future of death.

The COVID-19 pandemic not only represents a serious threat to human life and livelihoods, it has transformed experiences of death, grief, and memorialisation around the globe. Social distancing orders have upended cultural and religious traditions of mourning by restricting interaction with the deceased, attendance at funerals, and grave visitation at cemeteries. Simultaneously, communities have found creative responses to these restrictions through new rituals and new uses of technology. The ongoing implications of this period of disrupted death are only beginning to be understood.

The DeathTech team has led a collaborative effort to gather stories of death during the COVID-19 pandemic at the following online platform: https://padlet.com/hannahgould/deathduringcorona

Host

The roundtable was moderated by Dr Hannah Gould, a cultural anthropologist and ARC Research Fellow with the DeathTech Research Team. Hannah conducted her doctoral fieldwork on the life and death of memorial technologies within Buddhist death care sector in Japan, and now works on research into alternative disposal technologies and the future of Australia’s cemeteries.

Participants

Mariam Ardati is a Funeral Director, Consultant and Educator based in Sydney. For the past 12 years, Mariam has dedicated her time as both a volunteer and care consultant for a number of funeral services, where she performs the funeral rites in accordance with Islamic tradition, provides spiritual and practical care to the grieving, and assists families through the coroner’s court and its processes. Mariam holds a Health Sciences degree (Health Information Management) from the University of Sydney and is a Director and Consultant at Sakina Funerals.

Stephanie Longmuir is an End of Life Celebrant, Podcaster and Consultant. She has been serving the families of Melbourne and Sydney since 2009, creating unique and meaningful services. Determined to better prepare and inform families, in 2015 Stephanie founded myendnotes.com, Australia’s first digital funeral planning service, and in 2017 she launched a podcast series, Dying to Tell, in collaboration with Melbourne radio station Joy 94.9. She is a skilled writer and speaker and has been invited by ICCFA, NFDA and AFDA to present at their annual conferences.

Dr John Troyer is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath. He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk website, the Future Cemetery Project and a frequent commentator for the BBC. His new book Technologies of the Human Corpse was published by The MIT Press on April 28, 2020. He grew up in the American funeral industry.

Louise Winter is a funeral director and the founder of Poetic Endings, a modern funeral company in London. Her mission is to get people to really think about the importance of funerals. She believes that a good funeral can be transformational in helping us acknowledge and accept that someone has died. She’s the co-founder of Life. Death. Whatever., a new approach to death and dying, showing how exploring our mortality really can change our lives. Her work has been featured in publications around the world. Her first book will be published by Bloomsbury in March 2021.


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