Remembering the Dead: Agency, Authority, and Mortuary Practices in Interreligious Families in the United States

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Title

Death in the Early 21st century: Authority, Innovation, and Mortuary Rites


This chapter asks how cultural rules for treatment of the body and spirit of the deceased and for memorialization are adapted in mortuary ritual in a pluralistic society. Social and technological changes in the United States have challenged customary religious practices in which the nature of the dead and the authority of the clergy were established. New ideologies give increased agency to the deceased to express individual preferences. That agency extends to the expectation that as moral obligation to the deceased, family and friends will represent after death who the person was in life. The expression of ethics to honor the dead may be accomplished through modifications of ritual practice and the use of new technologies that democratize the sociocultural process of creating the meaning and memory of the deceased person.