CONCLUSION: TECHNOLOGY and CHANGING

AMERICAN ATTITUDES TOWARD DEATH

Photo from Capturing the Briefest of Lives. [3]

In Robben’s Death, Mourning, and Burial he outlines evolving models of the human relationship to death: tame death/death of the self/imminent death/death of the other/invisible death. [1] He argues that “Western society [has] surrounded death with so much shame, discomfort, and repulsion.” [2]

 

Throughout this course we have explored how Americans have moved through these different models of dealing with death, and how these different psychological mind-sets have fueled fascination with different types of the undead (ghosts, vampires, zombies).

 

 

While my final project addressed only the dead, and a very specific subset: the very young dead and documentation of their short lives, I think that through my final project I have come to disagree with the current prevalence of the invisible death model. While I absolutely believe it exists, I think there has been a shift in the visibility about specific types of death and a move to normalize talking about death (and specifically infant death) that is a result of current technology that returns people to smaller digital communities where they can connect with others who have had similar experiences.

 

 

With the advent of blogging, facebook, and other very public social media outlets, Americans have found a unique outlet to deal with grief and the processing of death. It has become more acceptable to talk about death, about the death of a child, and about miscarriage (see for example, Mark Zuckerberg’s very public announcement about the impending birth of his child and his wife’s multiple miscarriages). [4] Digital resources are allowing people to connect to others who have suffered similar losses, or who have gone through similar death and grieving processes. This openness has normalized discussions of death, and has pushed the American dead into a new model that doesn’t fit with any of Robben’s models. I will leave it to Robben and other anthropologists of death to identify the appropriate name for this new model, but as much of our class’s research seems to show, the American way of death is being changed by technology.

[1] Robben, Antonius C.G.M. Death, Mourning, and Burial: A Cross-Cultural Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub., 2004.

 

[2] Ibid. page 4.

 

[3] Fleck, Alyssa. Capturing the Briefest of Lives. Narrative.ly. September 27, 2013. Accessed on July 26, 2015. <http://narrative.ly/stories/capturing-the-briefest-of-lives/>

 

 

[4] Zuckerberg, Mark. Facebook post: Priscilla and I have some exciting news. July 31, 2015. Accessed on August 9, 2015. <https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10102276573729791&set=a.529237706231.2034669.4&type=1&theater>