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Deathscapes and diversity in England and Wales: setting an agenda

Maddrell, A., Beebeejaun, Y., McClymont, K., Mathijssen, B. and McNally, D. (2018) Deathscapes and diversity in England and Wales: setting an agenda. Revista d'Etnologia de Catalunya, 43. pp. 38-53.

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Abstract/Summary

The UK is an ethnically and religiously diverse country, shaped by longstanding ties with communities from the New Commonwealth, and other dynamic flows of international migration, particularly within Europe. National and local government, and other service providers, play an important part in the well-being of established minority groups and migrant residents within this multicultural society. For instance, they play a key role in the provision of social housing, education, employment and leisure facilities. Likewise many migrants and successive generations work in public sector services such as the NHS, as well as for private companies. This paper focuses on a little discussed but important dimension of migrant and minority experiences in England and Wales: cemetery and crematoria provision . These important spaces and services, including their gardens of remembrance, are provided and managed primarily by local government, alongside some private providers including faith groups (e.g. the Church of England/ Wales) and commercial services. Planners play an important role in forward-planning for and mediating negotiations around the location of local services. In the UK as a whole more than 70% of the dead are cremated, the remainder being buried and a small percentage repatriated internationally (Cremation Society of Great Britain, 2018), a pattern broadly replicated in England and Wales. Funeral and remembrance practices are increasingly co-created by the bereaved, the deceased, the wider community and the funerary professionals (Mathijssen, 2017). Thus as society becomes more culturally diverse, so too do funerary spaces and practices, and the requirements for them. Having the ‘right’ sort of burial, cremation and associated rituals is important for the respectful treatment of the deceased and for those mourning them. The bodily remains of family and friends are widely deemed to be ‘sacred’ and where the dead are buried, scattered and remembered is of deep significance to many (Maddrell 2016). Yet, it is notable that cemetery and crematorium provision in England and Wales is uneven, and provision for different ethnic-religious groups can likewise be uneven and inadequate. Based on extensive research with local communities and service providers in four case study towns, this paper explores the varied cultural and religious funerary needs in England and Wales, the associated challenges and the ways in which both communities and service providers (e.g. cemetery managers, town planners and funeral directors) respond to them. After discussing theory, methods and the English and Welsh planning context, it highlights seven key themes, namely: i) cemetery provision; ii) crematorium provision; iii) unequal provision across migrant and minority groups; iv) diversity within diversity; v) changing patterns of repatriation; vi) fostering dialogue; vii) understanding between professionals and communities; and viii) Planning for cemeteries as spaces of encounter. By doing so, it illustrates that diversity-ready cemeteries, crematoria and remembrance sites are a necessary but currently neglected aspect of an inclusive and integrated multicultural society(§6). There is a need for understanding not simply diverse cultural and religious practices, but of ‘diversity within diversity’ (e.g. denominational and regional differences) and how these are mediated through local and personal circumstances. Addressing this will contribute to greater social well-being and a more inclusive civic culture.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:88142

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