chapter  3
16 Pages

Sustaining Kinship: Ritualization and the Disposal of Human Ashes in the United Kingdom


Cremation is now the most common form of disposal in the United Kingdom, yet although it was legalized in 1884, it did not become a popular form of disposal until aer the Second World War and it surpassed full body burial as the most common preference only in the late 1960s. Since the early 1970s, however, two-thirds of all annual disposals have been cremations, rising to an average of 71.54% since 2000 (Pharos 2004, p. 20), making this the customary choice in the United Kingdom. is surprisingly recent development can be seen to have rendered the dead mobile, unlike the xed location of a whole body burial; ashes can be distributed according to the needs and desires of those who succeed the deceased person. Up to 60% of ashes are now being removed from crematoria rather than being le behind for scattering at the crematorium’s Garden of Remembrance. e question we address here, however, is how the needs and desires of those involved in a death are identied, how they represent themselves in particular practices or items of material culture, and most crucially, whose needs and desires are expressed in any one instance of disposal and subsequent memorialization.