The Future of the Corpse
Changing Ecologies of Death and Disposition
by Karla Rothstein and Christina Staudt, Editors
October 2021, 271pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-6905-1
$75, £58, 66€, A103
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-6906-8
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Around the globe, roughly 165,000 individuals die every day. The Neanderthals were the first human species to bury their dead, entombing them with stone tools, animal bones, and other artifacts in shallow graves.

This book reviews the spectrum of death, from when the living person turns to corpse until the person lives in the memory of mourners, and its impact on the ecology of the socio-cultural community and physical environment.

This book demonstrates that American society today is in a pivotal period for re-imaging end-of-life care, funerary services, human disposition methods, memorializing, and mourning. The editors and contributors outline the past, present, and future of death care rituals, pointing to promising new practices and innovative projects that show how we can better integrate the dying and dead with the living and create positive change that supports sustainable stewardship of our environment. Individual chapters describe prevailing practices and issues in different settings where people die and in postmortem rituals; disposition and current ecologically and, in urban areas, spatially unsustainable methods; law of human remains; customs and trends among key stakeholders, such as cemeteries and funeral directors; and relevant technological advances. The book culminates in a presentation of emerging sustainable disposition technologies and innovative designs for proposed public memorial projects that respond to shifting values, beliefs, and priorities among an increasingly diverse population.


  • Demonstrates the centrality of death care—from the deathbed to rituals of commemoration and mourning—in our individual and communal life and cultures
  • Reveals promising trends in human disposition, burial places, funerary officiant profession, technologies of memorialization, and grief therapy
  • Addresses how COVID-19 has accelerated and highlighted the need to address our changing death-care landscape on every level
  • Points to paradigm shifts in the U.S. population's value system and beliefs that will impact how we manage death care individually and communally
  • Presents innovative design proposals showing how spaces of remembrance and ritual can be integrated with urban life
Karla Rothstein is the founder and director of Columbia University's DeathLAB, an interdisciplinary research and design initiative invigorating thinking around the infrastructures and operational logistics of urban cemeteries and memorialization. Engaging sustainable practices and amplified civic purpose, DeathLAB is at the forefront of creative solutions to transform the ways in which we may commemorate and place the dead. Rothstein is also associate professor at Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation; a practicing architect; and co-founder of LATENT Productions, an architectural practice engaged in adaptive re-use and innovative ground-up design integrating material innovation with contemporary techniques and the specific characteristics of place.

Christina Staudt, PhD, is chair of the Columbia University Seminar on Death, a forum addressing all aspects of death and mortality from academic and clinical perspectives. As co-founder and past president of an end-of-life coalition, Staudt has spent almost two decades developing educational programming and offering guidance and resources to support individuals with serious illness or at the end of life and the families of those individuals. Co-editor of three scholarly volumes related to mortality, including Praeger's Our Changing Journey to the End: Reshaping Death, Dying, and Grief in America, she has also contributed chapters and articles to several other publications.
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