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Shannon Lee Dawdy

American Afterlives: Reinventing Death in the 21st Century

Thursday, February 24, 2022, 6:00pm

Zoom / Social Science Research Building, Tea Room (second floor)

This is a hybrid event, and registration via the link above is required for both in-person and virtual participation.

Please join us as 3CT fellow Shannon Lee Dawdy discusses her recent book, American Afterlives: Reinventing Death in the 21st Century (Princeton University Press, 2021), in conversation with Eric Slauter.

Death in the United States is undergoing a quiet revolution. You can have your body frozen, dissected, composted, dissolved, or tanned. Your family can incorporate your remains into jewelry, shotgun shells, paperweights, and artwork. Cremations have more than doubled, and DIY home funerals and green burials are on the rise. American Afterlives is Shannon Lee Dawdy’s lyrical and compassionate account of changing death practices in America as people face their own mortality and search for a different kind of afterlife.

As an anthropologist and archaeologist, Dawdy knows that how a society treats its dead yields powerful clues about its beliefs and values. As someone who has experienced loss herself, she knows there is no way to tell this story without also reexamining her own views about death and dying. In this meditative and gently humorous book, Dawdy embarks on a transformative journey across the United States, talking to funeral directors, death-care entrepreneurs, designers, cemetery owners, death doulas, and ordinary people from all walks of life. What she discovers is that, by reinventing death, Americans are reworking their ideas about personhood, ritual, and connection across generations. She also confronts the seeming contradiction that American death is becoming at the same time more materialistic and more spiritual.

Written in conjunction with a documentary film projectAmerican Afterlives features images by cinematographer Daniel Zox that provide their own testament to our rapidly changing attitudes toward death and the afterlife.

This event is free and open to the public; registration is required. Please email us at ccct@uchicago.edu if you require any accommodations to enable your full participation.

Co-sponsored by 3CT, the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, and the Karla Scherer Center as part of their Conversations on American Culture series.

Please note: This convening is open to all invitees who are compliant with UChicago vaccination requirements and, because of ongoing health risks, particularly to the unvaccinated, participants are expected to adopt the risk mitigation measures (masking and social distancing, etc.) appropriate to their vaccination status as advised by public health officials or to their individual vulnerabilities as advised by a medical professional. Public convening may not be safe for all and carries a risk for contracting COVID-19, particularly for those unvaccinated. Participants will not know the vaccination status of others and should follow appropriate risk mitigation measures. Visitors to campus should be in compliance with both the City’s travel advisory and UChicago’s visitors guidance.