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A likeness of absence: photography and the contemporary visual culture of death in Athens

Xenou, Ariadne Spyridonos



Using my family experience as an auto-ethnographic case, I consider how photography creates postmemory and counter-memory and how it has come to adopt the position it currently holds in funereal rituals in Athens. My historical examination begins from the Byzantine creation of the cult of relics and the cult of saints. Through the history of the Orthodox religion and the creation of the Neohellenic state, I regard concepts of visual representation of death and identity. I examine the trends and tensions which have shaped death practices in relation to the semantic nature of and cultural impositions in the photographic artefact. These are the dominant factors which have constituted the photograph as a representation of death and counter-memory. I consider the cultural need to create visual representations and I examine such images as cultural products of communicating the thoughts and anxieties of the group which installs them; as such, photographs are representative of the mutability of death. In a secular age, the photographs of the deceased are treated by the living so they become quasi-sacred representations of symbolic capital and operate under a different system of values, according to the era in which they are produced. I argue that the way photographs in graveyards are currently transcending the roles Orthodox funereal doctrine bestowed upon them and the manner in which the photographic installations are accelerating in funereal practices, is a compensatory reaction to the postmodern disaffection of urban death.

Keywords: photography, death-ritual, post-memory, identity, individualisation, Orthodoxy, Athens.

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jun 14, 2012
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords photography; death-ritual; post-memory; identity; individualisation; Orthodoxy; Athens;
Public URL
Award Date 2012-06

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