New Life From the Ruins of Japanese Death Rites

Deep in the Fukuyama mountains, “the grave of the graves” houses acres of unwanted headstones. In the past, the Japanese dead became venerated ancestors through sustained ritual offerings at graves and butsudan. But in social atomised twenty-first Japan, this intergenerational system of care, along with the household and nation that once sustained it, is collapsing. This talk describes the practical and affective burdens imposed by the ruins of vanishing death rites and explores how new life (which is to say new death) may emerge.

Dr Hannah Gould (Postdoctoral Fellow in Anthropology, The University of Melbourne) is a cultural anthropologist researching death, Buddhism, and material culture in Australia and North-East Asia. Her research spans new rituals and technologies of death, the lifecycle of religious materials, and modern minimalist movements. In sum: the stuff of death and death of stuff. She is currently President of the Australian Death Studies Society and Project Manager for the Modern and Contemporary Collaborative at Japan Past & Present.