Accepted paper:

Natural burial and the corpse: from waste to gift

Author:

Hannah Rumble

Paper short abstract:

I argue that British natural burial provision enables the bereaved and dying to symbolically and literally take the hitherto rotting corpse and reproduce it as an animate gift to nature, fecundity and future generations creating a mode of intergenerational legacy.

Paper long abstract:

Natural burial began as a very specific burial innovation in England in 1993, but since then has been adopted and fostered by other countries world wide. In this paper however, I shall focus on ethnographic and interview data from natural burial grounds in England collected between 2008 - 2010. This paper argues that people's articulated desire "to be of use," "return to nature" and "give something back" that they offer by way of explaining their choice to have a natural burial (as opposed to cemetery burial or ash scattering), is in fact a form of gift-giving. For natural burial, I argue, enables the bereaved and dying to symbolically and literally take the hitherto rotting corpse and reproduce it as an animate gift to nature, to fecundity and to future generations. In this way a natural burial site becomes a type of intergenerational legacy and this animate gift changes our understanding of "to be dead" and the place of the dead amongst the living.

panel LD14
Disjunctions of deathscapes: ways of suffering, dying, and death