Ecological immortality and ideas of the afterlife in Japanese Tree Burials

Ecological immortality and ideas of the afterlife in Japanese Tree Burials

Sébastien Penmellen Boret, Associate Professeur à l’Université de Tohoku au Japon, invité par Katiana Le Mentec dans le cadre du Workshop international :
« Materialities and emotions in times of disasters. An Anthropological Perspective », prononcera une conférence intitulée :

« Ecological immortality and ideas of the afterlife in Japanese Tree Burials »

Lundi 20 Mai 2019

de 10h à 12h15
à Maison des Sciences humaines
Salle A07_37 (7ème étage)
54 bd Raspail 75006 Paris

Sujet de la conférence

Japan’s mainstream culture of death consists of cremation, the ancestral grave system and Buddhist mortuary rituals. This practice places emphasis on the identity and continuity of a household upon which the identity of the deceased is dependent and anonymised within a body of ancestors. These conventions have been facing a proliferation of non-ancestral funerals has taken place since the 1990s. They concur with socio-demographic changes (birth-rate and marriage declines and the ageing of the society) and respond to a growing sense of uncertainty regarding the sustainability of family lines and people’s renunciation of the ancestral grave system. One of these most innovative ways of dealing with the dead is tree burial (jumokusou). The founders of jumokusou replaced the customary ancestral tombstone with a tree of remembrance, and the graveyards of concrete become vast forestlands. Its community supports and lead ecological rehabilitation, surveys, education and promote a renewed engagement with the Japanese environment. If this model was not adopted in its entirety, over a hundred of cemeteries presently offer tree burial as a mode of burying the dead at present. To understand this phenomenon, Boret examines tree burial’s capacity to reconcile the creative powers of both life and death. His analysis suggests that tree burial provide individuals with a symbolic form of ‘ecological immortality’ (i.e. returning to nature) in place of the conventional idea of ‘social immortality’ (i.e. becoming an ancestor). Boret concludes with an examination of the plurality of ideas of the afterlives, in which human remains to become a symbolic or quintessential element of the cycle of nature.

Frédéric Keck (LAS, CNRS) et Mary Picone (CCJ, EHESS) seront discutants.

Présentation de l’invité : Sébastien Penmellen Boret

Sébastien Penmellen Boret is a French anthropologist and an Associate Professor at Tohoku University. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Oxford Brookes University and an MPhil from the University of Oxford. His research areas include death, grief, public health, and disaster in Japan, Indonesia, and France. His current research investigates the management of corpses, grief, and places of collective memories in time of crisis. Boret is the author of « Japanese Tree Burial: Ecology, Kinship and the Culture of Death » (Routledge, 2014 HB, 2016 PB) and « Death in the Early Twenty-first Century: Authority, Innovation and Mortuary Rites » (Palgrave, 2017).


cliché de S. P Boret