This panel presents research from across disciplines and cultures to discuss the many ways in which the legacy of the Enlightenment endures or is challenged in funerary practices and expectations surrounding end-of-life.
Perhaps an enduring legacy of the Enlightenment is the persistent ideological emphasis upon reason and individualism rather than faith, tradition and emotion in Western public and cultural life. Such an emphasis, always suspect, is thrown into particularly acute relief when confronting mortality. This panel seeks to bring together scholars' work from across disciplines and cultures to discuss the many ways in which the legacy of the Enlightenment endures or is challenged in funerary practices and expectations surrounding end-of-life. The Enlightenment's aim to reform society through reason, to challenge ideas grounded in tradition and faith, and advance knowledge through the scientific method can be exemplified by various cultural designs of death; not least the development of cremation and discourses surrounding suicide, euthanasia and organ donation amongst many other examples. In speaking of designing death we are both alluding to the agency of people in being creators of things or processes that are fashioned in relation to death and dying, as well as what is culturally designed through an encounter with mortality. And in the process of designing an encounter with death, to what extent are beauty, order and harmony qualities that are valued? How are encounters with death and dying both products of the designer and the designed? And how does the legacy of the Enlightenment endure or become obsolete in the process of designing death or in the design itself? We actively encourage an engagement with these questions from a diverse range of disciplinary, theoretical and ethnographic perspectives.
Natashe Lemos Dekker (Leiden University)
Erlendur Haraldsson (University of Iceland)