The correct performance of the rituals associated with death is of utmost importance in the Middle East. While beliefs surrounding the rituals have remained intact in essence, the rituals themselves have altered in form to adjust to change. Papers addressing these changes are invited for this panel.
Beliefs surrounding death and its associated rituals remain elaborate and form an important part of everyday life in the Middle East. The treatment of the dead and burial are based on concepts of life after death, with the ultimate aim of facilitating the passage from this world to the next. Reverence for the dead is a deeply ingrained feature of cultural practices and it is essential that the body of the deceased undergo the correct procedures to be able to make its journey to the afterlife. While the core beliefs about death and after life remain conformist in essence throughout the Middle Eastern countries, the procedures to achieve them have altered due to a number of unpredictable events and challenges. These range, inter alia, from an increase in population and rapid urbanisation, requiring the involvement of authorities to deal with the need for larger spaces and more efficient burial services, to an unexpectedly high number of deaths based on wars and political crisis, which have taken place in many parts of the Middle East, during the past few decades. Modernity and globalisation have also affected the performance of the death rituals and provoked different responses among different ethnic and religious groups. While some societies have adjusted to change by, for example, resorting to modern technologies to speed up procedures and maintain control of death rituals, others continue with their traditional practices. Death rituals are also increasingly used to highlight social, economic, ethnic and political differences in unprecedented ways.