How Covid has changed funerals or 'end of life processes'
- A sociological and anthropological perspective on key rites of passage such as weddings and funerals and how they have been impacted by Covid-19 regulations and concerns
Customs and traditions play a large role for any community and are therefore intertwined with one's heritage says Refilwe Moloto.
Whether they be for joyful or solemn events, these traditions and rituals play an important role in helping make the process feel complete - especially rites of passage such as funerals and weddings.
Refilwe Moloto speaks to UCT social anthropologist Dr Helen Mcdonald and sociologist Dr Elena Moore about these rites of passage and how they have been impacted by Covid-19 regulations and concerns.
One of the things we need to think about is in terms of end-of-life processes - and that is what I am going to call them, where the body is but one part of the process.Dr Helen McDonald, Social Anthropologist - UCT
What do we do with the body, and for some the body needs to be disposed of very, very quickly while for other the processes can extend for over a week.Dr Helen McDonald, Social Anthropologist - UCT
Some cultures need practice mummifying and embalming keeping the body intact, she adds, while for others the entire body is disposed of through cremation.
What's happened with Covid, is the State has ordered us to work on the body very, very quickly.Dr Helen McDonald, Social Anthropologist - UCT
She says for some that have not seen many changes except the wearing of PPE when handling bodies.
But when the State wanted us to wrap the bodies in plastic, that was hugely distressing and caused a huge amount of anxiety at not being able to view the body.Dr Helen McDonald, Social Anthropologist - UCT
However, she says the use of Zoom to record funerals and enable people to join live via digital means has opened up a new space for people to participate in the ritual.
On the flip side, she says it has meant we have had to explore what it means to have only a limited number of 50 people at a funeral, and who gets to be there.
50 people from your family? How do you decide who those 50 people will be?Dr Helen McDonald, Social Anthropologist - UCT
She says a number of her social anthropology students shared their own anecdotal accounts of family funerals in this time of Covid and described the politics and anxiety in choosing the 50 attendees.
McDonald says she is sure the same issues apply to marriages at this time.
Who ends up on a marriage list, at the ceremony, and the anxiety and politics that must cause?Dr Helen McDonald, Social Anthropologist - UCT
Sociologist Dr Elena Moore says in many cultures the rituals around a marriage take place over a long period of time, and this has also been impacted by Covid.
In some cases, a lot of people were postponing those types of occasions.Dr Elena Moore, Sociologist
Moore suggests that many seem to have undertaken the civil marriage ceremony but postponed the celebration with family and friends.
Even prior to Covid certain rituals can take place alongside a civil marriage ceremony she notes.
A civil marriage does not replace those but rather can co-exist.Dr Elena Moore, Sociologist
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