‘The heterotopia begins to function fully when people are in a kind of absolute break with their traditional time; thus the cemetery is indeed a highly heterotopian place, seeing that the cemetery begins with that strange heterochronia that loss of life constitutes for an individual and that quasi eternity in which he perpetually dissolves and fades away’.

Although modern cemeteries have increasingly become environmental, historical, cultural and educational amenities, they still contain extraordinary spatio-temporal breaks and ambiguities. In this brief essay (see below), I start to look at the cemetery as an example of, in Foucault’s words, a ‘highly heterotopian place’ of the imagination.

Cemetery in Corsica

Download pdf: The Cemetery – a highly heterotopian space pdf


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Related links and resources

1. Articles that relate heterotopia to deathscapes:

Clements, P. (2017) ‘Highgate Cemetery Heterotopia: A Creative Counterpublic Space’ Space and Culture 20 (4) 470-484

Damjanov, K. (2013) ‘Lunar Cemetery: Global Heterotopia and the Bio-politics of Death’ Leonardo 46: 2 159-162

 De Boeck, F. (2008) ‘Dead society in a cemetery city: the transformation of burial rites in Kinshasa in M. Dehaene and L. De Cauter (eds.), Heterotopia and the City, London and New York: Routledge.

Green, D. (2001-2002) ‘Death, Nature, and Uncertain Spaces: A Commentary From Paganism’ Omega: Journal of Death & Dying. 44:2 127+

Johnson, P. (2008) ‘The Modern Cemetery: a design for life’, Social and Cultural Geography, 9 (7) 777-790.

Meyer, M and Woodthorpe, K. (2008) ‘The Material Presence of Absence: A DialogueBetween Museums and Cemeteries’, Sociological Research Online, 13: 5

Pugliese, J. (2009) ‘Crisis heterotopias and border zones of the deadJournal of Media & Cultural Studies 23 (5) 663-679.

Wright, E. A. (2005) ‘Rhetorical Spaces in Memorial Places: The Cemetery as a Rhetorical Space’ Rhetoric Society Quarterly. 35:4 51-81

2. Take a wonderful virtual tour:

 Le Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

3.The Cemetery Research Group

 The Cemetery Research Group “was established at the University of York in 1990, when a consortium of interdisciplinary academics successfully applied for Economic and Social Research Funding for research on local authorities and cemetery conservation. Since that time, research on cemeteries has continued at the University principally by Julie Rugg, who continues cemetery work under the aegis of the Centre for Housing Policy”.


4. A very comprehensive collection of studies available on-line:

The Archaeology of Death in Post-medieval Europe ed. Tarlow, Sarah (2015). Published by De Gruyter Open Access.

“This volume offers a range of case studies and reflections on aspects of death and burial in post-medieval Europe. Looking at burial goods, the spatial aspects of cemetery organisation and the way that the living interact with the dead, contributors who have worked on sites from Central, North and West Europe present some of their evidence and ideas”.

Also recommend: Maddrell, A. and Sidaway, J. D.  (eds.) (2010) Deathscapes: Spaces for Death, Dying, Mourning and Remembrance, Farnham, Hants: Ashgate.

March 2018

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