9 May 2023

Call for abstracts: Privacy and Death - Past and Present

It is often said in archaeology that the dead do not bury themselves.[1] Instead, death and funerary rituals are constructed by living communities who have different relationships to death, dying, and commemoration and differing notions of privacy. How we interact with these topics is evolving as digital methods present new ethical and practical problems. This symposium will explore the relationships we construct between death and privacy in the past and in the present. How far have the dead been entitled to privacy? What kinds of privacy do the dead have? Does privacy change when one dies?


Topics can include (but are not limited to):

  • Posthumous data - what are the living allowed to do with information about the data in different historical periods?
  • Burial spaces between public and private - how do different cultures and periods navigate spaces for the dead?
  • Medical ethics - to what extent do we violate the privacy of people turned into scientific specimens?
  • Decoloniality and social justice - in what ways has the (denial of) privacy around death impacted colonised peoples and how can this be addressed?
  • Human remains - how do the excavation, analysis and display of human skeletons interact with notions of privacy in the past and in the present?
  • Modern funerary culture - how do we engage with privacy surrounding death and commemoration in the present?


We welcome participation from many disciplines, including but not limited to history, archaeology, anthropology, forensics, sociology, theology, psychology, medicine, and law. The symposium will be held Thursday 12th - Friday 13th October 2023 at the University of Copenhagen at the Centre for Privacy Studies in the South Campus of the University of Copenhagen. The premises can be reached by the Copenhagen Metro at the Islands Brygge stop. Travel bursaries cannot be confirmed but funding is being pursued.


Please submit an abstract of 300-500 words and a 50-word biographical note to nkk@teol.ku.dk by Monday, 12th June.

[1] Parker-Pearson, M. 1999. The Archaeology of Death and Burial. Stroud: Sutton, p. 3.