No Lonely Deaths. Answering the Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Funeral Sector and the Bereaved Families (7402)

Début / Fin
01.06.2020 - 30.06.2023
Domaine(s) d'expertise
Sociologie, anthropologie
Vieillesse, fin de vie, mort
Sources de financement
Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique. Division interdisciplinaire et internationale (InterCo)
Berthod Marc-Antoine (HETSL)
Clavandier Gaëlle (Université Jean Monnet - St-Etienne Lyon)
Collaboration de
Pagnamenta Veronica (HETSL)
Pillonel Alexandre (HETSL)
Recherche(s) en relation
Co-construire une réponse funéraire en contexte de pandémie du Covid-19 (7406)


The Covid-19 pandemic generates an unprecedented sanitary and social crisis. Numerous individuals are currently mobilised to respond to this crisis, among them actors of the funerary realm. Our former research work leads us to take into consideration the unique situation caused by this pandemic, as well as its consequences for this specific sector and for bereaved families, and to propose the present research project. This crisis is unprecedented, not only in terms of the foreseeable number of deaths, but first and foremost in terms of its repercussions on the overall number of deaths. It arises in a globalised world in which public health issues are problematized as risks and, at this time, handled through confinement measures. By contrast with a catastrophe or an epidemic in which both localisation and timeline are more clearly readable, each death in Switzerland - as well as in any other State that is applying such measures - is concerned, not only those due to a specific event, in this case a virus. It is thus necessary to assemble available knowledge and to act as swiftly as possible to identify what differs and what is new in today’s situation, in order to enable the different actors - public health authorities, professionals engaged in various sectors, volunteers - to rapidly seek answers and find alternatives to alleviate the difficulties, problems and questions they are inevitably facing.Consequently, the goal of the project consists in documenting as quickly as possible the reorganisations proposed by the funerary agents during the crisis, with regard to the constraints and obligations resulting from the management of the pandemic outbreak in three different countries: Switzerland, France and Italy. Moreover, the goal is to evaluate their impact on bereaved family members, and to analyse the potential creativity deployed in coping with this unprecedented situation. This project thus aims not only at understanding the crisis itself, but also its aftermath in the months that will follow, in order to document practices, resolutions, adjustments and probable conflicts in relation with these situations. An anthropological approach will be adopted, in accordance with the ethical principles observed in the discipline; it will be based on an ethnographic approach - observation, formal and informal interviews (on-line during the confinement period) - of the work done by professionals in funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries during the crisis; a series of interviews will also be conducted with family members confronted with adjustments to the funerals of their loved ones. The No Lonely Deaths project is founded upon the following hypothesis: according to the scope and length of this sanitary crisis, the consequences in relation with funerary matters will necessitate - and necessitate already - a collective and co-constructed answer that acknowledges and secures the professional interventions; the bodies’ treatment in relation with the sanitary and social recommendations; the funerary rituals at the time of death and during the following months. Accordingly, the project is experimental and original, on at least two aspects: first, it collects first-hand data and questions them in real time while the crisis is occurring, notably with regard to ethical issues; second, it compiles new information based on concrete experiences that might help public health authorities and stakeholders to apprehend social issues and figure out solutions during a pandemic, especially for the funerary sector and bereaved families.

Publication(s) en relation

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