Dear English-speaking visitors,
our webpage contains information and pictures from a sociological research project that covers, among other topics, the current impact of social change on funeral culture within Central Europe. This short paragraph aims to give you an overview about the features of the site.
First up, there is a brief explanation on our research. We have visited hospitals, hospices, clinical pathologies, undertakers, and many other places where people deal professionally with death. Furthermore, we have done field research on more than 970 cemeteries in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and the south of Denmark. This has led to an archive of more than 55,000 photographs, most of them depicting rather unusual gravestones that provide insight into society. Our main finding is that dying, grieving and remembering today echoes individualization processes and thus is no longer conducted by means of gazing into a heavenly future that reunites people, but is rather built around individual lifeworlds and achievements reached in the past, but still valuable for the present.
You can access a short text from Germany's leading news magazine »Der Spiegel« which gives you an introduction to our work in English language.
You can also find out more about us: We are Thorsten Benkel and Matthias Meitzler, both from the University of Passau, both sociologists. Our webpage provides an insight into our research and especially the latest of our three books on the subject, containing the most interesting 300+ pictures. You will find some information on the two preceding volumes as well, each of them composed of both text and photographs. There is also a list of book chapters and journal articles we wrote for different publications, as well as an overview of all speeches we held in connection to our project.
This is followed by a list of additional research we have done, divided again into books, chapters articles, and speeches. Apart from examining how society deals with the problem of mortality from the perspective of cultural sociology, we have worked within in the field of law (on communication within penal law trials), in so-called »red light districts« (among others, on interaction patterns in prostitution setting and the drug scene), and we have also looked at self-representation online through Facebook.
This website also presents you with a list of all the graveyards we have visited for the current project, which is updated regularly. The final section is devoted to the »Gravestone of the Month« with a short explanation on its specialties – and including an archive for earlier winners in that category.
Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you are interested in our project and/or want to connect with us! You can reach us via friedhofssoziologie [at] live.de.
By the way, our next aim is to examine strategies and perspectives of people that keep their loved ones‘ ashes in urns with them at home, or bury these ashes at other sites than the cemetery. This is – as yet – illegal in Germany, but still practiced often. More on this new project, called »Autonomy of Grief«, can be found here.