Remember Me. The Changing Face of Memorialisation

From the earliest times we know that humans have felt the need to commemorate those who have died, in ways which afford dignity and meaning to the life lived and provide a focus for the living to remember them.

The need to mark the death and memorialise the life appears to be fundamental and enduring and of therapeutic value for both communities and individuals. These practices are influenced by wider changes in societies and cultures and in turn reflect beliefs about death and public attitudes to care of the dying and bereaved. There is growing evidence, in the media and elsewhere, of new and diverse forms of rituals and practices as people in the 21st century mark the passing of someone to whom they felt a close association in life – colleagues, friends and public figures as well as family members. At the same time, tensions are emerging, for example, concerning how the person should be remembered, between public images and private feelings, and interesting questions are raised as to whether today’s personalised and often digital memorials will be as durable as the stone structures of the past and whether this matters.

Latest News

13 and 22 November 2016


As the nation gathers to mark Remembrance Sunday the University of Hull is conducting research into memorialisation practices. A year ago members of the Remember Me research team and student volunteers attended Remembrance Sunday ceremonies in Beverley to conduct fieldwork. The team, led by Emeritus Professor Margaret Holloway, asked people to reflect on what Remembrance Sunday meant to them, how and why they chose to participate in the ceremonies. Members of the community warmly welcomed the researchers and made a tremendous contribution to the study.

This year, the Remember Me team is returning to Beverley to share the findings of their research. The results confirm the important place Remembrance Sunday holds for those who attend the ceremonies, with most people choosing to attend every year and more than half came to remember a particular person. Yet, people’s reasons for attendance were more varied than expected.

Preliminary findings from the research will be displayed in Beverley Minster on Remembrance Sunday, presenting an opportunity for community members to learn about the research they have contributed to.

A more formal feedback event is being hosted on the evening of Tuesday the 22nd of November at East Riding College, Flemingate in Beverley. Dr Michael S. Drake, Co-Investigator and lead on the ‘Heroes and Loved Ones’ study, and Research Fellow Dr Mirka Hukelova will present their findings and Principal Investigator, Emeritus Professor Margaret Holloway will speak about the one of the key themes emerging from the research. Attendees will have an opportunity to openly discuss what Remembrance Sunday means to them now, and into the future.

‘Heroes and Loved Ones’ is part of our wider research project, ‘Remember Me: The Changing Face of Memorialisation’, led by Emeritus Professor Margaret Holloway. The 30-month multidisciplinary project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) with a grant totalling £850,000, is the first systematic attempt to study new types of mourning rituals surrounding death and dying.

Other strands to the research includes looking at memorialisation among Polish migrants in Hull, free-writing in palliative care, archaeological and diasporic death, and remembrance of dementia sufferers.

Research is being carried out by historians, social scientists, archaeologists and ethnographers and will culminate in a major national conference and public exhibition in 2018.

For more information about these events contact 01482 466376 or

Found Poppy

20 September 2016

Dr Nicholas Evans interviewed by Estuary TV news.

An interview Remember Me Co-Investigator, Dr Nicholas Evans aired on Estuary TV on 20 September. Dr Evans spoke about the history of Hull's municipal crematorium, the first in the country. The full interview can be watched on catch-up here (time index 29:25 to 34:42).

8-9 September 2016

Dr Yvonne Inall presented at the (Dis)Connected Forms: Narratives of the Fractured Self Conference at the University of Hull.

Whole Life? - Fragmented Death?

Archaeological excavations of Iron Age sites across Britain have encountered fragmentary human remains deposited within settlement boundaries, and incorporated into domestic houses. The collection, circulation and deposition of fragmented remains would have played an important role in commemorating the identity of a dead person, or in the negotiation and renegotiation of the relationships between the living and the dead. Depositing remains within homes and settlements, as places of the living, may have served as a rite of incorporation back into the community as potent ancestors offering protection from dangerous supernatural forces (or even as a means to placate or control potentially malevolent spirits), and reinforcing kin group and community cohesion.

1-3 September 2016

Dr Nicholas Evans, Dr Yvonne Inall, Prof Suzanne Schwarz and Sam North will all be presenting aspects of their research at the Death and Culture Conference at the University of York.

Nicholas J. Evans (University of Hull)

The exclusivity of memorialisation on the sugar island of Barbados

This paper by Evans considers the changing face of memorialisation in Britain’s first sugar colony of Barbados. Settled by Portuguese, Dutch and British settlers including Jews, Christians and enslaved Africans, it remained an important part of the British World during and after the abolition of slavery. Memorialisation between 1627 and 1833 sought to portray the lives and identities of white planters in differing formal and informal burial sites. In contrast to the white elites who governed Barbadian life enslaved workers were often buried in undocumented spaces – spaces that remain unmarked despite the abolition of slavery in 1833 and then decolonisation in 1966. The exception to this story has been the Newton Sugar Plantation where the burial site is now gaining prominence as a UNESCO World Heritage site. This paper contrasts the utility of burial heritage on the island after 1966 when Barbados secured independence from Britain. Slave burial goods and former burial sites have been used (arguably abused) by differing groups eager to maintain a connection with the former Mother Country. Rather than being stigmatised the former burial spaces of the slave owning plantocracy now offer evidence of how British the island was to the 500,000 Brits who travel to the Caribbean island each year.

Yvonne Inall and Malcolm Lillie

The living dead: enduring relationships between the living and the dead in prehistoric Britain

Prehistoric deathscapes in Britain are layered with discursive memorialisations, referencing, elaborating and reinterpreting existing landscape features (Ingold 2010; Williams, 2006). Relationships between the living, the dead and the landscape are renegotiated. This paper foregrounds the dialectic aspects of memory formation which imbue the recently deceased with the mnemonic power of an existing deathscape, creating reoriented ancestral identities for the deceased and their ongoing relationship with the living.

Schwarz, Suzanne (University of Worcester)

Burial practices and the burial heritage of slavery and emancipation at Freetown

The panel’s second paper by Schwarz explores the way in which Sierra Leone’s shifting role as a source of slave supply and subsequently as an abolitionist-inspired colony is reflected in burial sites, religious buildings and documentary sources. This analysis of mortality, burial and commemoration associated with different migrant groups in Sierra Leone in the late 18th and 19th Centuries draws on surviving memorial inscriptions in Freetown and its hinterland.

Samuel North (University of Hull)

Memorialising colonial death in modern Cape Town: forgotten voices, contested identities

This discusses the contested nature of memorialising diasporic death in urban Cape Town, South Africa, after the fall of apartheid. Beneath the modern city lie a number of mostly undiscovered and unmarked burial grounds pertinent to the area's colonial history. Cape Town is a space in which colonialism has historically been remembered through a lens which glorifies Dutch and British settlement, with a particular focus on the achievements of white men. The contributions made by the lower classes in shaping the modern city are implicit in the built landscape, though are only recognised sparingly. It is only after the fall of apartheid in 1994 that the story of these deceased ancestors – closely linked with the history of slavery at the Cape – has begun to be told. Rather than work towards reconciliation in a national reconstruction period however, the rediscovery of this memory has instead exposed divisions in place of what could be seen as an inclusive shared heritage of diasporic death. This paper draws upon case studies from around urban Cape Town - including the prominent Prestwich Street dispute - to highlight the interrelated and sometimes opposing interests of post-apartheid identity politics, tourism, and the memorialisation of death. It reveals how slavery at the Cape remains a problematic heritage almost two hundred years after the institution's demise.


13 June 2016

Dr Michael S. Drake presented his research: ‘Biopower and the political life of the military war dead', to the Authority & Political Technologies 2016: Biopolitical Matters - a symposium, University of Warwick June 13-14 2016.

This paper reads ritualised practices of commemoration - the spectacular commemoration of the military war dead - as a reflexive function of the biopolitical body corporate. Drawing on recent research data, it shows how changes in practices of collective remembrance can illuminate a submerged formation of the biopolitical, the imaginary dead which constitute a conscience collective, invoking obligation and indebtedness among the living who are identified with this monstrous dead. Interpreting current research findings from the case-study ‘Heroes and Loved Ones’, part of AHRC-funded project, Remember Me: The Changing Face of Memorialisation, the paper shows how the late modern biopolitical shift from mass to individual has displaced the nation from the core of the ritual commemoration of the war dead, emptying the collective ritual, but producing a politics of depoliticisation. In this postnational affective economy, the previously shared burdens of biopolitical identification with the military dead are now borne by individuals each alone amongst the many who are charged with fulfilling this duty of care in remembering bereft of the collectivity that such ritual may have originally constituted.

18th May 2016

The Institute of Applied Ethics would like to invite you to the latest seminar in the ‘Environment, Conflict and Responsibility’ series:

John D. Baldari -  ‘Phronesis and the Profession of Arms’

Thursday 26th May at 1pm

Lecture Theatre 28, Wilberforce Building, University of Hull

John will be giving an account of phronesis, the virtue of prudence/practical wisdom, which identifies the advantage of encouraging the development of wisdom in the military profession. He will begin by providing a short account of Aristotle’s phronesis as it is presented in the Nicomachean Ethics and arguing for an ethic that accounts for phronesis in such a way as to show its value to warfighters. John’s key claims are as follows: 1) phronesis is a master virtue, a virtue that does not admit of the mean like character virtues, but is necessary for good character in a way quite different from the intellectual virtues; 2) phronesis is the logical development of one's core intuitions; and 3) the inherent value of phronesis is exactly that it provides one with information on how to act in a given set of circumstances at that moment in time from the perspective of the agent which makes it a necessary trait for warfighters even at the lowest level of command and not just echelon command and control.

John D. Baldari is a Chief Warrant Officer with the United States Army and is based at the IDEA centre at the University of Leeds.

Admission Free – All Welcome

19th February 2016

Surveying Memorialisation in Freetown

In December a member of our team (Dr Lee Karen Stow) visited Freetown in Sierra Leone, West Africa, to explore different forms of memorialisation. See our blog for more detail and some interesting photos.

Memorialisation on BBC The Why Factor

A very interesting piece on how we remember the dead and why does it matter? Mike Williams considers the promise of so many nations never to forget the death and suffering of World War One, and explores how the dead have been remembered around the world and through the ages. The Why Factor.

Heroes and Loved Ones ‘Poems’ and interviews.

We are now in the process of interviewing volunteers as part of our study ‘Heroes and Loved Ones’ . It’s been a wonderful experience with many different stories which will make an enormous contribution to our research. It was particularly touching when I was given 2 poems by one of the interviewees to share with others. I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I do. See our blog for more detail.

10th November 2015

“Lest we forget”: Heroes and loved ones

Emeritus Professor Margaret Holloway of the University of Hull has contributed the article '“Lest we forget”: Heroes and Loved Ones' to Beverley Minster Magazine, November 2015.

9th November 2015

PoppyAs part of our case study entitled ‘Heroes and Loved Ones’, we undertook a brief survey of participants in the Parade and Remembrance Service in Beverley Minster on 8 November 2015. This survey also included the people who congregated in the town. The survey was undertaken to ascertain their reasons for participating, and the meanings which they attached to the service and surrounding ceremonies.

There was an opportunity for individuals or small groups to make their own personal memorial through photographic portraits which was facilitated by the teams creative artist Liz Nicol. Over the ensuing weeks we will invite a cross-section of participants to take part in a face-to-face interview to explore these themes in greater depth.


Supported by

Arts & Humanities Research Council

If you would like more information or if you would like to participate in this research project, please contact:

Remember Me Project
01482 466376

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