Anthropology 322: Comparative Studies of Death
I haven't taken many cultural anthropology courses to be honest. I have tried to stay in the realm of science and evolution as much as possible, avoiding the nebulous study of culture. However, this class, taken in my sophomore year, moved me deeply. At a time when I was feeling fairly apathetic about school, I made the trek to distant Condon hall in order to hear the elderly professor's lectures. We discussed an immensely broad range of topics: cross-cultural concepts of the afterlife, burial traditions, the advancement of embalming technology and cremation, the graying line between a life and death blurred further by technology, near death experiences of adults and children, and the motivations and ethics of Dr. Kevorkian. Far from being a morbid four hours a week, I was fascinated by how humans deal with death worldwide. Every one of us has experienced death in some way or at the very last thought about it. It was both intense and enlightening to learn about the origins of our own Western ideas about death and to learn about what other cultures do and think about something so fundamental to the human experience. For our final papers, we were asked to reflect on the death of someone we knew, and contextualize our experiences within the concepts we'd discussed in class. My paper about my grandfather is posted below.