chapter  1
18 Pages

Constructing Immortality: e Role of the Dead in Everyday Life

ByMARGARET MITCHELL

Death is an interdisciplinary matter. is chapter and the volume Remember Me: Constructing Immortality-Beliefs on Immortality, Life, and Death present a very wide range of perspectives on the ways we interact with the dead in social, emotional, and practical ways. It is intended to give a broad base and add some esh to the bones of our constructions of immortality. Its purpose is to go beyond remembering and memorializing the dead to present ways in which the dead play a lively part in our lives. But our relationship with the deceased is obviously changed (I don’t need to explain why!). We may take as a metaphor Robert Wyatt’s proposition, in his discussion in this volume of painting the “posthumous self,” that those we keep with us aer their death become “larger than life” through our attributions and activities. In a collection of essays on death and dying, Arnold Joseph Toynbee proposed a “capital fact” about the relation between living and dying: “ere are two parties to the suering that death inicts; and, in the apportionment of this suering, the survivor takes the brunt” (1968, p. 271). e way that the suering referred to by Toynbee is manifested, as we will see, takes many forms. Rather than considering grief and

suering per se, however, the focus of this collection is on the creative ways that people-possibly in the face of personal suering-continue the dead as “alive.” In this chapter I discuss the private connection that bereaved individuals have with the dead, from public activism or pursuit of a cause to memorializing, and the ways people carry on physically in images and other ways such as biography.