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Kelli Swazey's Culture of Death Speech Examines Indonesian Funeral Traditions

 - Oct 4, 2013
In her culture of death speech, Kelli Swazey describes the way people in Tana Toraja view death. The focal point of social life in this part of Indonesia is funerals, which are characterized by elaborate rituals that result in a system of reciprocal debt based on the animals sacrificed in honor of the dead person.

The opposite of somber, these celebrations are a public, shared transition. In this part of the world, the cessation of biological life does not mean death. When a person is no longer medically alive, family members refer to the person as being sick or sleeping and continue living with the body. They do this because they recognize relationships with the deceased continue, even after they have passed away, and they adjust as their relationship does.

The anthropologist's culture of death speech states the West has much to learn from this perspective, and could result in death being a bigger part of life.