Bior Ajak
BA Economics and International Development Studies
BLUE Fellow
|
Winter
2020
Analyzing urbanization's impact on death practices to promote sustainable and culturally sensitive practices
BLUE Fellow
Winter
2020

Background

As a society, we have deep rooted beliefs and values about how we take care of our deceased; from how we physically manage their bodies to how we define respect for their memories and commemorating them. These values are mostly inherited from our religions and cultures and, whatever they may be, they cannot be rationalised through math and science. This project explores people's relationship with death and associated popular practices such as coffin burial and cremation, and why people opt for one or the other. But with the emergence of globalization, migration and multiculturalism in our cities there is barely any room to accommodate everybody's burial needs. So, what is the place of our religions and cultures in a society that is becoming increasingly secular, and our value systems primarily based on economic survival?

In a society that commodifies everything, the economic trap of the funeral industry, backed by archaic legal systems, has exponentially increased the cost of death, both on the environment and our pockets. Consequently, most of the population in our cities are too broke to die. If we do not get out of this trap of death commodification, and adopt sustainable burial practices, survival instincts dictate that our current economic and environmental limitations will override whatever religious and cultural beliefs we have left in showing respect for the dead. This has been witnessed in Singapore, Hong Kong China, parts of Europe and North America, experiencing shortages in cemetery spaces.

The main goal of this project is to highlight the economic and environmental dangers of increasing commodification and commercialization of death in our cities, and how we can embrace sustainable after-life practices that ensures respect for the bodies and the memories of the deceased, in line with our religious and cultural beliefs.

More scholars