Abstract: ‘My grandmother is not a ‘corpse’: The forgotten dead of a Megalopolis’
The cemetery space could be argued or understood to be a social, political, socio-culturally dynamic and sociomythic space, yet when the dead die alone, without identity, then a cemetery takes on a darker and sinister twist. My paper explores how a cemetery in a megalopolis such as Mexico City turns into a waste dump for the carcass of the human body. In this context if a person in Mexico City is unknown and its body unclaimed by its family or friends, the dead ends striped of its role as a social person, dehumanised and treated as waste, a corpse or a pile of bones, striped of its human dignity. There are instances more common than not were the dignity and humanity of the dead has been excluded from the overall complexity of current Mexican funerary practices. This paper will look particularly at the forgotten dead that find their final resting place in common unmarked graves, such as the ones located in Panteón Civil de Dolores, Mexico D.F.
This paper addresses why people persist in maintaining a relationship with their dead, exploring the social and cultural tools that are used to extend the dead’s biographical narratives such as secular and religious commemorative objects and the photographic portrait. ‘Not letting go’ is of fundamental value for my research participants as striping the dead from their humanity could place us in danger of excluding ourselves from becoming dynamic members of the human community when we die.
Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
My practice based visual research project explores how through daily and yearly cycles, mourners and workers develop and maintain intricate rituals involving the dead buried in the cemeteries of Mexico City. The conjoined landscapes of the living and the dead are spaces of personal and collective grief, charged with emotions, loaded with ethical and moral obstacles and obligations. In my project I set out to document meticulously through photographs as well as text the numerous ways in which the living and the dead remain connected over generations. Additionally, I explore the range of activities, labor and kills developed and performed by its gravediggers serving these intense, long-term relationships.
2-3 Sept 2011: ‘The Art of Anthropology Conference’
School of Art & Design, University of Ulster, Belfast