Accepted Paper:

Change in funerary rituals, change in social relations? Modernization of death rituals and their social impact in a village community in Romania  

Author:

Agnes Hesz (University of Pécs)

Paper short abstract:

In my paper I focus on the effects the modernization of funeral rituals have on the ways locals manage their social relations in a Hungarian village in Romania. I will dwell on how locals adapt to and feel about these changes: how they negotiate them, and what values govern their diverging reactions.

Paper long abstract:

In my paper I focus on the effects the modernization of funeral rituals have on the ways locals manage their social relations in a Hungarian village in Romania. Since the time of my long term fieldwork in 2003, there have been considerable changes in the course of funeral rituals: whereas in 2003 most people were buried from their home, and death rituals were performed with considerable help from kin, neighbours, and friends, the last couple of years have seen the construction of a local mortuary and the emergence of local companies offering full service for funeral reception. Funeral rites have thus been moved from the private to the public sphere, and tasks traditionally fulfilled by people nurturing social ties to the family of the deceased were taken over by the service sector. These changes are of course more than technical: since help offered during death rituals were integral part of the local system of exchanges and served as means for managing social relations, the effects of these modifications are far reaching. In the paper I would like to dwell on how locals adapt to and feel about these changes: how they negotiate them, and do they find - or look for - ritual substitutes for services formerly offered to the family of the dead. Since reactions are not univocal in the community, I will also try to show the different values governing divergent opinions.

Panel Reli005
The transformation of traditional rituals: imposed change or natural evolution? (Ritual Year SIEF Working Group panel)