‘Funerary Culture Wars’ in Late 19th- and Early 20th-Century Europe and the Case of the Brussels’ Freethought Movement

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Abstract

This article explores how the control of religious authority over funerary culture became a contentious issue on a pan-European level during the course of the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. A comparative analysis of the conflicts around burial and cremation in various European nation-states highlights the two-dimensional character of these ‘funerary culture wars’. Freethinkers were radical players in these institutional and cultural conflicts as they challenged the tight grip of churches on the ‘death systems’ in their respective cities and countries. We will show how the institutional and cultural secularisation of funerary culture was not a universal and inevitable developmental trend but rather a historically variable and contingent outcome of social and political struggles around concrete change. We zoom in on the city of Brussels where freethinkers made new secular funerary practices very visible from the middle of the 19th century onwards.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)9-41
Number of pages33
JournalSecular Studies
Volume4
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Copyright 2022 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

Keywords

  • BRUSSELS
  • 19th Century
  • freethought
  • secularisation
  • Funerary culture
  • secularity
  • Cremation
  • civil funerals

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