Rumble in the jungle

Charles Cowling

 

There’s a very good interview with Dr Hannah Rumble, death scholar and author of the shortly-to-be-published Natural Burial, co-authored with Prof Douglas Davies, over on the Seven Ponds blog. We were struck by some of her insights. These included: 

 

*   “What distinguishes Britain from America in the main is in the title: ‘natural’. In the UK this tends to be imagined and realized alongside landscapes that encompass the pastoral, such as farmers’ set-aside that turns to meadow, or woodlands. But in the US, I get the impression that the natural landscape incorpated into natural burial provision can encompass more of the ‘wilderness’.”

*   “‘Tradition’ is an interesting subtle difference too. In America, natural burial is aligned with the ‘traditions’ of the  American settlers in the popular imagination. In the UK, our cultural imagination tends to align natural burial with pre-Christian ‘tradition’ and practices.”

*   “When I speak of ‘aesthetic values’ in the UK and ‘romantic values’ I am referring quite a bit to the notion of the pastoral idyll that has a long history in British landscape art and Romanticism.”

*   “The sometimes cruel, sometimes sublime cycles of the seasons here in the UK provided a motif for people’s cycles of mourning and understanding of life and death. ‘Nature’, whatever that ultimately means, is a powerful cathartic tool for the people I spoke to.”

*   “I think there’s similarities in the idea of ‘utility’ of the self that prompts people to donate themselves to medical science or choose natural burial — a recycling, reusing of the body for the greater good … natural burial enables the bereaved and dying to symbolically and literally reproduce the hitherto rotting corpse into an animate, fecund ‘gift’ to ‘nature’ and society’s future generations, which ultimately challenges the  place of the dead amongst the living. The dead become ‘useful’ again rather than a problem to be solved by cemetery management.”

 

Read the full interview here.

Order the book here

 

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