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Scandinavian pet cemeteries as shared spaces of companion animal death
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. (HumAnimal Group)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-1191
Karelian Institute, University of Eastern Finland..
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Pets are animals included in the cultural realm, they are often considered family members and, to some extent, the rituals surrounding their death resemble those of human death. Yet, pet owners also conceive of their pets as animals who are guided by their instincts and belong to the realm of nature. Special cemeteries for pets, for instance, have been established in many Western countries since the 19th century. Pet cemeteries are often located in natural environments in rural or peri-urban areas, with a suggested association between animals and nature. These spaces present a specific culture of petkeeping, where remembrance and different material and visual expressions of grief for the death of a companion animal are allowed, encouraged and shared.

In this presentation, we explore the ways in which companion animal death is performed in pet cemeteries in Scandinavia. Drawing from photographic data collected at selected pet cemeteries in Finland and Sweden, supported by interviews with key informants and information published by cemetery organizations on websites and in newsletters, we explore the material practices and shared spaces of mourning and remembrance. In Scandinavia, the popularity of second homes is high, which means that many owners choose to bury their animal companion on private land. Cremation services for pets are also widely used by owners. In this context, pet cemeteries can be understood as spaces where the mourning is shared between pet owners. The grave of a pet is individually marked and has an identity that makes it both similar to and different from other graves. 

In our study, we investigate different practices and rituals related to animal death at pet cemeteries. We focus on the use of items such as headstones, statues, and pictures, with attached verses and other verbal remembrance at the grave. We also pay attention to rules and norms prevalent at the cemeteries, as well as to the role of religion and related use of the cross and figures such as angels. We suggest that in these spaces pets are simultaneously grieved as human-like friends and family members, and as nonhuman others. Pet cemeteries thus mirror humans’ ambivalent status to nonhuman animals and to the idea of nature.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
animals, pet cemeteries, death, rituals, mourning, remembrance
National Category
Social Psychology Sociology Human Geography Gender Studies
Research subject
Sociology; Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-329457OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-329457DiVA: diva2:1141594
Conference
XXVII European Society for Rural Sociology Congress, Krakow, Poland, July 24-27 2017
Projects
Intimate Sociality: Practice and Identity in Collective Housing, Human-Animal Relations and Couple Dancing
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 421-2014-1465
Available from: 2017-09-15 Created: 2017-09-15 Last updated: 2017-09-15

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
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Language
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Output format
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