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The Body Poetic: How Identity Is Formed, Negotiated, And Renegotiated Through Interaction Between The Living And The Dead

  • 13 Apr 2022
  • 7:00 PM
  • Virtual

The Body Poetic: How Identity Is Formed, Negotiated, And Renegotiated Through Interaction Between The Living And The Dead

AIA Society: Athens
Lecturer: Anna J. Osterholtz

The dead do not bury themselves. This is fundamental to how we begin to understand the relationship between the living and the dead. How we, the living, interact with the dead has significance for us in terms of our identity formation throughout our lives. Drawing on a model of Poetics developed by Neil Whitehead to understand the social role of violent interaction, we can see mortuary processes as a product of ritual and performance. In this talk, I will discuss how the use of space within mortuary processes impacts our understanding of who we are, leading to changes in status and identity.

Mortuary rituals illustrate the relationship between the living and the dead. Archaeologically, mortuary rituals can be identified through the material traces they leave, from the graves and human remains themselves to the remnants of feasting activity, to the creation of monuments. In our modern world, mortuary rituals reflect an individualistic view of society. We interact with our dead in ways that reflect intersectional, personal, and communal identities. I will explore these topics with case studies spanning Space and Time, tying together an understanding of why burial within a medieval church was a status symbol to why a concert/memorial service with fireworks and explosions was an appropriate sendoff for a man like Hunter S. Thompson. No matter what timeframe we examine, mortuary rituals are meaningful expressions of identity; this talk will examine the ties that bind the living to the dead and how those ties are embodied in poetic performances.


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