Introduction: The Uses of Death in Europe
Taylor, Lawrence J. (1989) Introduction: The Uses of Death in Europe. Anthropological Quarterly, 62 (4). pp. 149-154. ISSN 0003-5491
The topic of death has loomed large of late in the work of both anthropologists and historians. Approaching the topic from their respective traditions and with distinctive methods derived from different kinds of evidence, the two disciplines have arrived at a number of complementary strategies and insights which can be brought usefully to bear on the subject of death in Europe. Both perspectives inform the essays in this issue: a small but appropriately diverse collection exploring European reactions to, and constructions of, death. The first piece is intended to bring an archaeological perspective to the attention of cultural anthropologists working in Europe (an indeed elsewhere), and the remaining three essays treat, respectively, death in Protestant Scotland, Catholic Ireland, and Orthodox Greece. The title of this issue and this essay is meant to draw attention to a motif in all the essays: that death is not only a problem, but also an opportunity – an occasion for furthering social, cultural, and political ends. A brief excursus through the anthropological and historiographical treatments of death will serve to trace the genesis of this approach, and thus to introduce the essays.
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