The Economics of Death and the Afterlife

Making a living from the dead

Post-Mortem Photography


Note: The above image is probably not a post-mortem photograph.

A recent comment on a previous post had me thinking about the many different trends that have occurred in the history of people grieving loved ones. The poster in question mentioned how creepy open-casket visitations were, and it reminded me how much our perception of what is and isn’t creepy has changed throughout the centuries. It also reminded me of a memorial product that is no longer in vogue, and that would surely upset our modern sensibilities: post-mortem photography.
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An Interactive Web Documentary on the Funeral Process

I came across this extraordinary interactive web documentary called Thanatorama. It puts the viewer in the role of a recently deceased person in order to explore the funeral process. The project is from France, which means the terms used may differ slightly from those used in Quebec, but it’s still a very accurate, interesting source that simply oozes with style.

I definitely recommend giving this a look if you have time.

As a warning, certain sections may be a little disturbing to certain viewers. There’s nothing particularly gory; but there are a few brief glimpses of cadavers.

Death and You


As I mentioned before, people tend to not want to think about the old “d” word, especially when it comes to their own relationship to it. What about you? Have you ever considered what you would like to happen to your body after you’re gone? I have, of course, but we’ve already established that I’m a little strange, based on the subject of my blog. I would like to know what you have planned, however.

Buddhist Mummies – Ritual Mummification


Recently, many news sources announced the discovery of a 200-year-old Mongolian Buddhist monk’s mummy (Ba). While most of us are familiar with the Egyptians’ rigorous mummification rituals,not all mummies are produced the same way. Oftentimes, natural mummification can result from ideal environmental factors occurring after death. Certain Buddhist sects have incorporated practices that recreate these perfect environment in their rituals in order to encourage post-mortem preservation.

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Definition – death care industry


death care industry

the many establishments that provide a wide range of services and products for use in the ritualized disposal of  human remains.

synonyms: funeral industry, death industry

Note: The death care industry has various components in addition to services such as preparation for burial, funeral conducting, and cremation. Peripheral activities also include monument making, crematories, casket and urn manufacturing, production of memorial merchandise, pre-need sales, funeral software design, cosmetics, floral arrangement and many others. The scope of the services provided by death care industry is nearly endless so as to give the bereaved to customize the ways in which they wish to symbolically represent the lives of their loved ones.

BRYANT, Clifton D., PECK, Dennis L., eds. “Death Care Industry, Economics of” Encyclopedia of Death and the Human Experience. Volume 1. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2009, pages 309-312

PETT, David. “Reaping the Benefit of Death Stocks.” Financial Post, October 25, 2015. Accessed February 8, 2015.

industrie de services funéraires

établissements dont l’activité principale est reliée aux rituels de la disposition des corps.

synonymes: industrie de soins mortuaires, industrie de la mort

Note: Ceci inclus la préparation des personnes défuntes pour l’inhumation, l’organisation des funérailles, les services de crémation et autres.

“Système de classification des industries de l’amérique du nord (SCIAN) 2007 – industries de service (SCIAN 2007 – Ind. Service).” Statistique Canada. July 12, 2012. Accessed February 1, 2015.

An Introduction


For time immemorial, humans have been obsessed with questions of life, death, and the afterlife. However, these days we only tend to speak of death in hushed tones, if at all. Its mere mention produces unease in even the bravest among us, as though merely a passing mention of the fate that awaits us all cements its reality and invites the grim reaper’s premature attention.

And yet, there is no greater evidence of our humanity than our knowledge of our impending demise and our ritualistic care of the deceased. Humans have been burying their dead since at least the Paleolithic era. In fact, some of the oldest evidence of religious practices is directly tied to ritual burial. It is a unifying trait among all human beings; every nation on earth has theories on the afterlife and instructions on how to deal with cadavers.

The subject has not always been so taboo, however. Not very long ago, the sight of a dead body was much more common than it is now. Bodies were often kept inside the home for mourning, or left at the front of churches. In fact, what we now call the “living room” was formerly known as the “death room.” It was here that the newly deceased were exposed before burial. Such a practice would surely make any modern person cringe. We no longer have such a hands-on approach to taking care of the dearly departed. In fact, we have painstakingly removed any traces of death from our periphery.

As our society’s attitudes towards death have changed, so too have our methods of dealing with the deceased. There now exists a thriving industry that ensures that our loved ones who have shuffled off this mortal coil receive a proper send off.

The following blog will examine the death care industries around the world, and its terminology.

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