An online lecture and Q&A Session exploring the Victorian garden cemetery today as a place for mortality mediation and shared community space
Whilst ‘dark tourism’ and ‘thanatourism’ have sometimes been used interchangeably, thanatourism can be defined as a more specific long-standing practice motivated by a specific desire for an encounter with death. The long history of thanatourism is motivated more by thoughts of memento mori than a contemporary thrill-seeking dark tourism activity. Encounters with death themes represented in the Romantic Movement were precursors and inspiration for the development of Victorian garden cemeteries. The mortality mediation offered by these cemeteries has a long-standing association with a desire for encounters with death.
Many Victorian garden cemeteries have opened their gates as community spaces, extending the purview of cemetery community space beyond that as strictly sites of mourning. Contemporary changing attitudes towards death and dying—and our cultural desire for secular mortality mediation—means mixed use of cemeteries as community space are likely to become more commonplace. As these spaces embrace a variety of perspectives and voices within their walls, the perception of cemeteries is transforming from morbid and solemn, to celebratory and inclusive. These cemeteries endeavour to become places of community connection and joy.
In this talk, Dr Romany Reagan will offer perspectives on what cemeteries have meant to their communities throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries—and today—as spaces of mortality mediation. Building upon research from cemetery historians, mixed-use case studies, dark tourism, and her own research within Abney Park cemetery, Reagan will explore the diverse secular thanatouristic practices within cemeteries today—and the the future of navigating these practices within community contexts.