Memento Mori: Lessons from a Decade Among the Dead

Lecture | April 19 | 6-8 p.m. | Latimer Hall, 120 Latimer Hall | Note change in location

 Dr. Paul Koudounaris

 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

For over a decade, Dr. Paul Koudounaris has traveled the world documenting the display of human remains in religious practice. From the earliest Christian charnel houses to mummy festivals in modern day Indonesia, he found that the taboo we commonly associate with the dead body was anything but universal. In many cultures throughout history and many presently, a literal memento mori--a reminder of death using skulls and bones--was an essential part of spiritual life. His talk will first consider the way we conceive of death in the Western World versus the way death has been conceived of historically, and how the impact that change has had on our relationship with the dead. He will then focus on examples of how even Western culture once had a considerably more open relationship with the dead, as well as current examples of similar relationships in Asia, Africa, and South America. The result will provide insights into magic, faith, and ultimately the connections that bind generations past and future.

About the Speaker: Paul Koudounaris is an author and photographer with a PhD in Art History from UCLA. He specializes in macabre visual culture and has lectured and presented his images throughout the world. His trio of books, Empire of Death (a history of ossuaries), Heavenly Bodies (the sage of Baroque era full bodied jeweled skeletons), and Memento Mori (a global look at the display of the dead) are award winning and have been translated into multiple languages throughout Europe and Asia. He is also a frequent guest on television and radio shows focusing on the macabre and the occult, and his work is foundational in the dark tourism movement.