04 October 2004

death, dying, and genealogy


1930s tva grave relocation
roane co, tn

-NARA photo

a sentimentalizing of mortality ... the dead body is fetishized as a catalyst for truth telling - ron rosenbaum

ron rosebaum's september article in slate - "dead like her - how elisabeth kubler-ross went around the bend" - has set me thinking today about those of us - and here i imperiously decide that i am not alone - who originally took up genealogy as tool to cope with the death of a loved one (or two).

rosenbaum would likely suggest that genealogy is one form of fetishizing death. msnbc's online series of articles "genetic genealogy" under its science and technology flag may have him gleefully rubbing his hands together as evidence of yet one more "treacly simalacrum of psuedo-science" perpetrated on a sentimentalizing public.

remember this, though: rosenbaum's critique of kubler-ross's methodology and his inquiry into commodification and quantification of death and dying ought not to be dismissed out of hand. it wouldn't hurt any of us to examine the commodification of even our own family's vital records these days. you pays your bucks and you gets your death certificate here with just a modest markup.

can you say af·fil·i·ate, boys and girls?

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