Brady D. Wagoner
Clark University, Worcester (MA), USA

E-mail:apollodionysian@aol.com

 

THE DIALOGICAL CONSTRUCTION OF DEATH SPACE:
HOW WE COPE WITH DEATH THROUGH SYMBOLS IN SPACE

 

Death is one of life's greatest uncertainties and as such it is the sight of elaborate societal meaning and ritual. Hamlet's question - "to be or not to be…" - is fundamentally dialogical. Life and death are bridged together in becoming, where the conditions of death may be contemplated. As Josephs (1998) has shown, persons can develop internal dialogues with the deceased, which supports the anthropological observations that death can be understood as a transitional state. Deceased people have not ceased to exist; they have 'gone somewhere else'. Cemeteries and crypts in England, Ireland and Northern Italy were explored as to the symbolic nature of death spaces - to understand how space can convey the tension between the living and non-living. Specifically, the following themes were explored: symbolic and physical barriers in cemeteries, building 'upwards' and 'downwards' in grave architecture, disclosure of identity (what is acceptably seen versus hidden), effect of technology, and religious contrasts. Despite seeming differences between societies, a single process of dialogical construction is at work through the cultural-ecological relationship a society has to their world.