Hautaaminen perustana

Burial as Foundation

Burial has often been regarded as one of the practices on which the generic specificity of humanity is founded. Historical and anthropological research shows, however, that the forms of this practice have varied markedly across time and space. Reading for instance Philippe Ariès' history of death in the Western world, it becomes clear that the description of the different burial practices and meanings attached to them are not able to reveal what is common to them all. In other words, the practices do not reveal their own foundational principle. Another option for studying burial as something foundational is to treat it as a philosophical question. In this article this second step is taken with Michel Serres and Robert Harrison. Their writings present rich arguments for seeing burial as something that has always already been there with the humans. Yet, it is evident that this transcendental level of argumenting presupposes the empirical cases, the concrete practices of burial; and that these practices, for their part, presuppose the trans­cendental foundation in order to be understood as burial. This reciprocal presupposition between practices and conceptualisations, manifest in the foundational discourse on burial, seems to characterise discourses on foundations more generally. All in all, the article analyses burial as a practice that in its many guises is for the human beings a foundational way to be in material relation with their own and their loved ones' death, and with the very earthliness of human life. While demarcating the sphere of the living from the sphere of the dead, burials, gravestones and cemeteries simultaneously help to define what is human, and what makes it different not only from other forms of living but also from waste and other forms of dying.

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