2004
Volume 28, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1388-3186
  • E-ISSN: 2352-2437

Abstract

Abstract

This article connects the history of attitudes toward death and funerary practices in 19th- and 20th-century Europe to the ongoing discussion on secularization. It emphasizes how recent scholarship on the history of death – following broader trends within religious studies – has abandoned the standard modernization-narrative of secularization, and moved to view the issue through the prism of conflict and market competition. Depending on the historical context and the Church-State relationship, a conflict and/or market competition perspective can deepen our understanding of the secularization of death and burial practices. In periods of intense socio-political struggle over the role of religion in the modern polity, a conflict perspective helps to grasp the processes of secularization. Once secular forces have succeeded in breaking the grip of the churches on death and burial, a market perspective can be more useful. Both serve as alternatives to the traditional understanding of secularization as an anonymous process of modernization. An in-depth analysis of the development of a secularist funerary culture in Belgium aptly demonstrates the shift in the master variable influencing secularization – from socio-political conflict to market competition.

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Keyword(s): Belgium; death; Europe; funerary culture; secularization
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