Deathscapes and diversity: Making space for death and remembrance in multicultural England and Wales

Project details

Full project title: Deathscapes and diversity: Making space for death and remembrance in multicultural England and Wales

Duration: January 2017-September 2018

Funder: AHRC/ESRC

Project Leader for SPE: Dr Katie McClymont

Partners/Collaborators:

  • Professor Avril Maddrell (University of Reading)
  • Dr Yasminah Beebeejaun (University College London)
  • Dr Danny McNally (Teesside University)
  • Dr Brenda Mathijssen (University of Groningen)

Project summary

In light of increasing ethnic and religious diversity, there is a need for diversity-ready cemeteries, crematoria and remembrance sites in the UK. The AHRC-ESRC Deathscapes and Diversity research project investigates the politics and practices of migrant and minority cemetery and crematoria provision in four case towns in England and Wales, working with local providers and communities.

The project is supported by the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Institute for Cemetery and Crematorium Management, and aims to catalyse a more inclusive policy and research agenda across the sector.

Read the Deathscapes and Diversity blog

Key outputs

  • Maddrell et al (2012) Intersections of (infra)structural violence and cultural inclusion: The geopolitics of minority cemeteries and crematoria provision, paper accepted by Transaction of the Institute of British Geographers. Worktribe output number 7043472.
  • “Diversity-ready cemeteries and crematoria in England and Wales” (University of Reading, 2018) Policy Briefing report.
  • Maddrell et al (2019) Deathscapes and Diversity in England and Wales: setting an agenda, available via Revista d'Etnologia de Cataluya or in the English version of Catalonian Journal of Ethnography (REC) 43.

Key findings

There is a growing awareness of diverse needs across local authorities and individual providers. The most effective service providers were well informed about the needs of different faith and cultural groups, however, provision and understanding are uneven. The findings of this study highlight a number of trends and issues: 

  • Monday to Friday public services (such as GPs, registrars, coroners, cemeteries and crematoria) are inadequate to meet the needs of faith groups which require prompt burial or cremation.
  • Local authority budgetary cuts have led to reduced hours and some out-sourcing of cemetery services, which can make it more difficult to be responsive to weekend requests.
  • Inability to fulfil religious and cultural requirements for the dead leaves mourners feeling misunderstood, marginalised and anxious on behalf of the deceased.
  • Service providers are not always aware of ‘diversity within diversity’, including different denominational and regional interpretations of religious practice, as well as generational and gendered preferences.
  • Larger metropolitan areas were reported to be better equipped to address these issues, compared to the towns in this study.
  • Falling rates of repatriation of deceased bodies or cremated remains to South Asia.
  • Need for increased capacity in designated Muslim burial grounds.
  • Recent increased costs for local authority burials are a particular burden on those with a religious obligation for burial

Project contact

For further information on the project, please contact Dr Katie McClymont or Professor Avril Maddrell (Principal Investigator) at the University of Reading.