Materialities of Passing: Explorations in Transformation, Transition and Transience, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Materialities of Passing

Explorations in Transformation, Transition and Transience, 1st Edition

Edited by Peter Bjerregaard, Anders Emil Rasmussen, Tim Flohr Sørensen


256 pages

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‘Passing’ is a common euphemism for the death of a person, as he or she is said to ‘pass away’ or ‘pass on’. This open-ended saying has at its heart a notion of transformation from one state to another, which in turn grants the possibility of grasping or approximating the passage of time and the materiality of death and decay. This book begins with the idea that since all material things - whether animals, human beings, objects or buildings - undergo some form of passing, then the specific transformation in these passages and the materiality actively given to it can offer us a grasp of otherwise precarious temporalities. It examines how human beings strive to relate to the temporal dimension of death and decay, by giving new shape and direction to being and by examining its natural transformations. Focusing on the materiality of passing, and thereby the relationship between embodiment, temporality and death, Materialities of Passing offers rich case studies from Europe, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and the Russian Far East for exploring the material, spatial and directional aspects of the very interface between life and death. As such, it will appeal to scholars of anthropology, death studies, archaeology, philosophy and cultural studies.


‘Societies around the world are struggling to understand new forms of life, death, and materiality. This fascinating volume places such struggles in a long term, cross-cultural perspective on being and nothingness. We are asked to refuse the binaries of subject and object, to pause on processes of unbecoming, and to consider the inherent uncertainty of ontology. A vitalizing read.’

Shannon Lee Dawdy, University of Chicago, USA

Table of Contents

Preface; Introducing materialities of passing, Peter Bjerregaard, Anders Emil Rasmussen and Tim Flohr Sørensen. Part I Metamorphosis: Passing as Movement Between Categories: Temporalities of transience and the mortuary landscape: the example of natural burial, Jenny Hockey, Andy Clayden, Trish Green and Mark Powell; Material dys-appearance: decaying futures and contested temporal passage, Martin Demant Frederiksen; Passage and passing: movement, boundary and presence in neolithic mortuary architecture, Tim Flohr Sørensen; Still in the picture: photographs at graves and social time, Anne Kjærsgaard and Eric Venbrux. Part II Transition: Detachment and Continuing Bonds: Understanding self-care: passing and healing in contemporary Serbia, Maja Petrović-Šteger; Doubting the dead: approximations of passing in a Papua New Guinean community, Anders Emil Rasmussen; Untimely death and spirit mobility in a Southern African border zone, Per Ditlef Fredriksen; Postmortem photography and two visual representations, Susan Matland. Part III Transience: Passing On, Passing Through: The third burial: passing between worlds and points of transformation among the Siberian Chukchi, Jeanette Lykkegård; Ambiguous mobility in the Viking Age ship burial from Oseberg, Jan Bill; Assembling the ‘spark of life’, Peter Bjerregaard and Rane Willerslev; Anterior origins: Merleau-Ponty and the archaeology of the body, Dylan Trigg

About the Editors

Peter Bjerregaard is senior adviser of exhibitions at Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, Norway. Anders Emil Rasmussen is a curator at the Vejle Museums, Denmark. Tim Flohr Sørensen is Assistant Professor of Archaeology at the Saxo Institute at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

About the Series

Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time

Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time

Eventually we all die - and we experience death head-on, when someone close to us dies. This series, Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time, identifies this fact as constitutive of the origin of human conceptions of time. Time permeates everything, but except for time itself all things are perishable - yet, it is only through the perishable world of things and bodies that we sense time. Bringing together scholarly work across a range of disciplines, the series explores the fact that human experiences and conceptions of time inherently hinge on the material world, and that time as a socially experienced phenomenon cannot be understood as separate from material form or expression. As such, it departs from a persistent current within Western thinking. Philosophy, biology and physics, among other disciplines, have studied time as an essential, ethereal and abstract concept. In the same way, death has often been conceived of in abstract and sometimes transcendental terms as occupying one extreme margin of human life. As an alternative, this series examines the ways in which bodily death and material decay are central points of reference in social life, which offer key insights into human perceptions of time.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / Cultural