Death, Religion & Diversity

Transforming bonds: ritualising post-mortem relationships

My paper “Transforming bonds”, on how people ritualise relationships with their deceased, has been published online in Mortality:

People continue relationships with their dead in a variety of ways. Since the 1990s, the idea of ‘continuing bonds’ has provided a framework for exploring and understanding post-mortem relationships. However, the dynamics of the bonds between the living and the dead have received little attention. By looking at the intersection of things, practices and spaces, this paper demonstrates that expressions of continuing bonds do not always point to continuity, and indeed can signify discontinuity. It explores the ‘transforming bonds’ between the recently bereaved and their deceased in the Netherlands, illustrating how post-mortem relationships change and how such changes affect the social location of the deceased and the bereaved. By attending to the ritual dynamics of separation, transition and integration, two aspects of the social and material relationships between the living and the dead are highlighted. First, attention is given to the ways wherein the bereaved relocate their deceased through material objects within and outside of their homes, enabling them to renegotiate the absence–presence of the deceased. Second, the paper illustrates that personalised incorporation practices are inevitably linked to negotiations and contestations in the social sphere, and the norms and values of the social environment.

The paper is published open access, and can be found here.