Disposal of the dead: Beyond burial and cremation

This research project investigates innovative and scalable alternatives to body disposal.

A grave at a cemetery

Overview

This research project investigates innovative and scalable alternatives to body disposal, such as alkaline hydrolysis, liquid nitrogen, and other thermal processes, and innovative elaborations on burial and cremation, such as natural burial and carbon trading among crematoria at a time when there is a greater awareness of the economic and environmental costs of both burial and cremation.

It considers the social, cultural and environmental issues, regulatory challenges, institutional responses, public discourses, personal ethics, and worldviews at stake in the emergence of these disposal technologies. The research asks, how do innovations in these technologies impact on consumers, industry, and broader socio-cultural and metaphysical frameworks for handling death?

This project explores the practices and perspectives of designers, death workers, industry intermediaries, consumers and representatives of cultural and religious communities as they respond to, interpret and plan for changing possibilities of bodily disposal.

Outcomes

This project has diverse outcomes, including:

  • Edited book: Residues of Death: disposal reconfigured (Kohn et al 2019)
  • Art Exhibition (2021): ‘What shall we do with the dead in the 21st century?’
  • A number of articles in journals and chapters in book
  • Podcasts, media interviews and popular media articles

For more information visit DeathTech Research Team.

Project details

Sponsors

ARC Discovery Grant GA2257

Project team

CIs: Prof Michael Arnold (SHPS); Prof Tamara Kohn (SSPS); A/Prof Martin Gibbs (SCIS); Dr Bjorn Nansen (SCC)

PI: A/Prof Elizabeth Hallam (Oxford)

Research Fellow: Dr Hannah Gould (SSPS)

Contact

Prof Tamara Kohn