‘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, I start to look at the cemetery as an example of, in Foucault’s words, a ‘highly heterotopian place’ of the imagination.
Download pdf: Cemeteries
After you have read the essay, feel free to leave comments below.
Related links and resources
1. Take a wonderful virtual tour:
‘The Cemetery Research Group (CRG) ‘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’.
What makes a cemetery a cemetery? Cemetery Research Group, University of York.
4. Good collection of essays:
Maddrell, A. and Sidaway, J. D. (eds.) (2010) Deathscapes: Spaces for Death, Dying, Mourning and Remembrance, Farnham, Hants: Ashgate.
Abstract: This paper explores the interdisciplinary terrain of ‘queer ecology’ by using the example of an urban cemetery in North London [Abney Wood] as an empirical and conceptual starting point. Though the term ‘queer ecology’ has cropped up a few times it has yet to be addressed directly in order to consider how the seemingly disparate fields of queer theory and urban ecology might benefit from closer interaction. It will be suggested that the theoretical synthesis represented by queer ecology serves to expand the conceptual and material scope of both fields: queer theory is revealed to have only a partially developed engagement with urban nature whilst critical strands of urban ecology such as urban political ecology have yet to connect in a systematic way with queer theory, posthumanism, or new conceptions of complexity emerging from within the science of ecology itself. It is concluded that queer ecology may enrich our understanding of both urban materiality and the role of metaphors in urban theory. In particular, the idea of queer ecology illuminates the possibility for site-specific ‘heterotopic alliances’ in the contemporary city.