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Reading: Gender Equality in Death? The Normative Dimension of Roman Catholic Ossuaries

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Gender Equality in Death? The Normative Dimension of Roman Catholic Ossuaries

Author:

Anna-Katharina Höpflinger

Centre for Religion, Economy and Politics, University of Zurich, CH
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Abstract

Gender seems to be so important for social orientation that it does not end with death, but forms practices and ideas around death. In Roman Catholic regions across Europe we find charnel houses and ossuaries, where the bones of the deceased have been collected. The exposed mortal remains reminded the living of death and warned them to live a ‘good’ life. To explain the interrelation between such normative demands and the material representation of death, a gender-based perspective is useful: in their material representations, ossuaries offer gendered ideas of death. For example we find murals of masculine and feminine personifications of death as the Reaper. But ossuaries also posit the ungendered equality of all humans in death: girls, boys, women and men are nothing more than bones, arranged side by side. I argue that ossuaries can be understood as in-between spaces for gender concepts: they support a gendered social order, but they also blur gender differences.

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/rg.10080
How to Cite: Höpflinger, A.-K., (2015). Gender Equality in Death? The Normative Dimension of Roman Catholic Ossuaries. Religion and Gender. 5(1), pp.18–34. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/rg.10080
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Published on 06 Oct 2015.
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