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Rite, Flesh, and Stone
The Matter of Death in Contemporary Spanish Culture, 1959-2020

Author(s): Daniel García-Donoso, Antonio Córdoba

Forensic science provides information and data behind the circumstances of a particular death, but it is culture that provides death with meaning. With this in mind, Rite, Flesh, and Stone proposes cultural matters of death as its structuring principle, operating as frames of the expression of mortality within a distinct set of coordinates. The chapters offer original approaches to how human remains are handled in the embodied rituals and social performances of contemporary funeral rites of all kinds; furthermore, they explore how dying flesh and corpses are processed by means of biopolitical technologies and the ethics of (self-)care, and how the vibrant and breathing materiality of the living is transformed into stone and analogous kinds of tangible, empirical presence that engender new cartographies of memory. Each coming from a specific disciplinary perspective, authors in this volume problematize conventional ideas about the place of death in contemporary Western societies and cultures using Spain as a case study.

Materials analyzed here—ranging from cinematic and literary fictions, to historical archives and anthropological and ethnographic sources—make explicit a dynamic scenario where actors embody a variety of positions towards death and dying, the political production of mortality, and the commemoration of the dead. Ultimately, the goal of this volume is to chart the complex network in which the disenchantment of death and its reenchantment coexist, and biopolitical control over secularized bodies overlaps with new avatars of the religious and non-theistic desires for memorialization and transcendence.

Biography of Author(s)


  • "The essays in this volume move swiftly and deftly across different aspects of culture—fiction and film, but also exhumations, funerals, processions, and inorganic objects. In ways that are at once surprising and innovative, this volume investigates some of the flash points of contemporary Spain."
    Bécquer Seguín, Johns Hopkins University and writer for The Nation, Slate, Dissent, The Awl, and Public Books
  • "A solid and necessary volume that opens up new perspectives in the field of Iberian studies by focusing on a central issue for a society, such as death and its cultures, regarding contemporary Spain. The subject is presented in a complex, collective and panoramic way, focused on its political, social, philosophical and cultural dimensions."
    Germán Labrador Méndez, author of Libidinal Economy in the Spanish Transition to Democracy