Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
As the sixth great extinction event has begun to be imagined and experienced, funerals have increasingly become political and ethical activities in which people confront their entanglement in volatile ecologies to challenge Western norms of death. This phenomenon is particularly acute in the United States, where corpses often undergo extensive manipulation to shield the body from decomposition and contamination. A proliferation of “green” internment methods have arisen in response to the environmental damage caused by these practices, embracing the messy materiality of decay and enmeshing funeral practices in larger questions of ecologically responsible citizenship and collaborative survival with nonhuman life (Tsing, 2016). These emerging funeral rituals have become sites for theory, activism, and art practice; articulating shared visions of alternative funeral professionals and activists who see decomposition as a process of multispecies renewal and profound opportunity to confront the reality of mortality. Responding to Donna Haraway’s call for embracing situated technical projects in order to engender “oddkin” (Haraway, 2016), this multimodal presentation of non-linear video, sound, and creative writing inspired by my fieldwork considers green burial practices as fashionings of the body that gesture towards the importance of sensorial and corporeal perceptions of pollution and planetary limits. How might anthropologists engage with forms of expression that do not abstract away from the body, but center on messy and often disconcerting experiences of the flesh? How can this help us imagine new genres of dying in the epoch of the Anthropocene, reshaping ontological claims about life and death in the process?