Ritual Permanence and Malleability: An Examination of Mortuary Practice in Diaspora Communities

Hacker, Chelsea
Many prominent anthropologists have suggested that when a society undergoes significant social transformation ritual is the last element to change. Consequently, many rituals have been analyzed as the last remaining vestiges of a vanishing culture. In this project, I consider whether this idea of the resilience of rituals can be extended to rituals surrounding death. Using case studies of Croatian and Chinese burial I intend to examine the burial grounds of those who have immigrated to the United States and compare burial practices and rituals found there to the literature on mortuary practice in the homeland. I will explore how the graves do or do not represent the traditional burial forms of their previous homeland or if they have adopted new ritual practices. Additionally, I will examine if there is a relationship between the significance of death rituals to the culture and the amount of malleability that occurs in mortuary practices within diaspora communities. This project engages with the significant literature on the nature of change, the immigrant experience, and the connection between material culture and beliefs.
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