Golomski, “Funeral Culture”

Golomski, Casey. 2018. Funeral Culture: AIDS, Work, and Cultural Change in an African Kingdom. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 

Publisher’s Description: Contemporary forms of living and dying in Swaziland cannot be understood apart from the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, according to anthropologist Casey Golomski. In Africa’s last absolute monarchy, the story of 15 years of global collaboration in treatment and intervention is also one of ordinary people facing the work of caring for the sick and dying and burying the dead. Golomski’s ethnography shows how AIDS posed challenging questions about the value of life, culture, and materiality to drive new forms and practices for funerals. Many of these forms and practices―newly catered funeral feasts, an expanded market for life insurance, and the kingdom’s first crematorium―are now conspicuous across the landscape and culturally disruptive in a highly traditionalist setting. This powerful and original account details how these new matters of death, dying, and funerals have become entrenched in peoples’ everyday lives and become part of a quest to create dignity in the wake of a devastating epidemic.

Halvorson, “Wovern Worlds”

Halvorson, Britt. 2012. Woven Worlds: material things, bureaucratization, and dilemmas of caregiving in Lutheran humanitarianism. American Ethnologist 39(1): 122-137.

Abstract: In this article, I examine the transition from charitable assistance to a professional model of humanitarianism in one American Lutheran agency that emerged from colonial missions to Madagascar. The agency, “International Health Mission” (IHM), primarily supplies medical technologies to Lutheran clinics in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Cameroon. I argue that popular material devices of relief provision, such as handmade bandages, tie the Christian humanitarian project to older notions of Lutheran faith as caregiving and pose special challenges to the bureaucratic model of aid delivery espoused by IHM. Casting renewed scholarly attention on materiality sheds light on the unique dilemmas facing faith-based aid agencies that strategically merge political discourses of humanitarianism with religious motivations for their work.