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Article

Re-Feminizing Death: Gender, Spirituality and Death Care in the Anthropocene

1
Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen, 9712 CP Groningen, The Netherlands
2
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Catrien Notermans and Anke Tonnaer
Religions 2021, 12(8), 667; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080667
Received: 30 June 2021 / Revised: 16 August 2021 / Accepted: 17 August 2021 / Published: 23 August 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Gender, Nature and Religious Re-enchantment in the Anthropocene)
Critiques of ecologically harmful human activity in the Anthropocene extend beyond life and livelihoods to practices of dying, death, and the disposal of bodies. For members of the diffuse ‘New Death Movement’ operating in the post-secular West today, such environmental externalities are symptomatic of a broader failure of modern death care, what we refer to here as the ‘Death Industrial Complex’. According to New Death advocates, in its profit-driven, medicalised, de-ritualized and patriarchal form, modern death care fundamentally distorts humans’ relationship to mortality, and through it, nature. In response, the Movement promotes a (re)new(ed) way of ‘doing death’, one coded as spiritual and feminine, and based on the acceptance of natural cycles of decay and rebirth. In this article, we examine two examples from this Movement that demonstrate how the relationship between death, religion, and gender is re-configured in the Anthropocene: the rise of death doulas as alternates to funeral directors and the invention of new necro-technologies designed to transform the dead into trees. We ask how gender is positioned within the attempt to remake death care, and show how, for adherents of the New Death Movement, gender is fundamental both to a critique of the Death Industrial Complex and to mending our distorted relationship to death. By weaving together women, nature, and spirituality, the caring labours of death doulas and the fertility symbolism of new arboreal necro-technologies build an alternative model of a good death in the Anthropocene, one premised on its (re)feminization. View Full-Text
Keywords: Anthropocene; New Death Movement; (post)secularism; gender; death doulas; necro-technology Anthropocene; New Death Movement; (post)secularism; gender; death doulas; necro-technology
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MDPI and ACS Style

Westendorp, M.; Gould, H. Re-Feminizing Death: Gender, Spirituality and Death Care in the Anthropocene. Religions 2021, 12, 667. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080667

AMA Style

Westendorp M, Gould H. Re-Feminizing Death: Gender, Spirituality and Death Care in the Anthropocene. Religions. 2021; 12(8):667. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080667

Chicago/Turabian Style

Westendorp, Mariske, and Hannah Gould. 2021. "Re-Feminizing Death: Gender, Spirituality and Death Care in the Anthropocene" Religions 12, no. 8: 667. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080667

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