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Academic Minute

Dr. Candi Cann, Baylor University – The Mobility Of Modern Memorials


In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Candi Cann of Baylor University reveals the rising popularity of alternative memorials to the dead. 

Candi Cann is an assistant professor in the Honors College and Department of Interdisciplinary Core at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Her research focuses on death and dying, and the impact of remembering (and forgetting) in shaping how lives are recalled, remembered and celebrated. She holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

About Dr. Cann

Dr. Candi Cann – The Mobility Of Modern Memorials

What do the World Trade Center, tattoos, car decals, t-shirts and the internet have in common?  They all function as centers of emerging mourning rituals that allow the bereaved to express their grief.  When bereavement is no longer given public space in society or culture, people must create and adopt alternative forms of mourning to help them navigate public space with their altered status as grieving individuals.  My work examines where, how, and why these new forms of memorialization are occurring. 

Bereavement spaces are becoming smaller in both geography and time, as memorialization either must be appropriated by the public arena or forced back into the private realm.   Time given for public memorialization varies: the Batman movie shooting memorial in Aurora, Colorado remained for three months while the elementary school shooting memorial in Newtown, Connecticut was dismantled after two weeks.  Conversely, at the World Trade Center, the spontaneous memorial has been appropriated and coopted by the American government as a symbol of solidarity and nationalism.

More personal, tattoo, car decal and t-shirt memorials are popular ways of remembering the dead.  While tattooing is not new, now tattoo seekers occasionally mix the cremains themselves with the tattoo ink, literally carrying the dead around on their bodies.  Car decal and t-shirt memorials, like tattoos, allow mourners to express their grief without interrupting the social fabric of everyday life.

Internet memorials provide a virtual space that correlates the physical one, yet differs in its relative permanence, and constant accessibility.  With smart phones and laptops, internet memorials provide a virtual counterpart to the material realm, allowing a constant access to the dead, without the messiness of the corpse.  DIY Memorials allow the dead to be re-inscribed in public space as material remembrance.  

Production support for the Academic Minute comes from Newman’s Own, giving all profits to charity and pursuing the common good for over 30 years, and from Mount Holyoke College.

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