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Celebrated Corpses

Our most inevitable ritual that we all fear will happen to us all at one point in our life. What is this inevitable process? Death. Death in modern day society has become a feared process that all know will occur at one time but are unprepared for when it does happen. The sudden catastrophe of death for society’s most profound individuals stuns our population. We are left in shock, yet we still hold emphasis on their bodies, and in that sense they are given immortality.  Over the course of this blog, we will be examining the ceremonial and archaeological features present in the rituals performed after the death of the most profound individuals of modern day and past societies. Furthermore, we will be comparing how the image of death for famous leaders differs from the average population. Looking at famous leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Walt Disney, and King Tut will exemplify the worldwide attention for care of one person. Through an anthropological lens we will dissect the variations shown in the deceased of different cultures around the world. Much of our research will include how the deceased body was treated during the first moments of death, what ceremonial processes occurred over their death period, and how their grave site is treated today.

The way the dead are buried gives us insight into the way they were seen in life. It is for this reason that the burials of well-known political figures is so fascinating. When a man becomes a household name, he becomes something beyond human: in some ways, reduced to a fixture of everyday life; in others, elevated to a place of incredible importance, bordering on godliness. Because neither a god nor a poster can experience death, the death of a public figure, even at the most timely, is met with shock and confusion. So numerous are those who feel familiarity or animosity toward the deceased that ethical dilemmas arise regarding the publicity of a funeral.  Who will be permitted attendance? How will those outside of the guest list feel connected with the proceedings? Is it ethical to screen guests, to film a funeral?

Further, the immortality of those already thought to be immortal gives us insight into the adaptation of semi-religious sentiments in modern culture. In the renowned, we see reflections of the regard with which polytheist traditions pay tribute to those above humanity. We see the transformation of a normal human being, however flawed they openly and privately are, into an ideal. This ideal is interpreted into representations of the dead, be they in the form of eulogies, memorials, funeral proceedings, or obituaries.

This blog will follow the deaths of significant political figures systematically, exploring their reputations in life; the transformation of public opinion as their current or former leader, revolutionary, or figurehead leaves the political scene and enters memory; the proceedings surrounding the funeral and burial of the figure, and the way modern audiences interact with the figure and his/her grave site, be it as a memorial, a monument, or a theme park.


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