Monumental Meaning-Making: Interpreting Westport, Ontario's Cemeteries

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Rielly, Barbara




Geertz’s interpretation and Blumer’s symbolic interactionism, along with narrative and memory theories, provide a theoretical framework from which to apprehend the cemetery as a place reflecting the changing needs and beliefs of the living and the dead. A literature review furnishes a context for the meanings ascribed to the cemetery as a place, the stones, their symbols, and what people do in cemeteries, but also identifies a lack of academic research specific to Ontario, Canada. In 2015, I studied symbolism in Canada’s Christian cemeteries in Westport, Ontario, noting commonalities and differences. Connections between the living and dead, family and community are made in the cemetery and are maintained by what people do and the objects they deposit. Variations over time identify new concerns, focusing less on death and more on the individual. This research offers a snapshot of the state of monumental meaning making in rural Ontario in 2015.


Cultural Anthropology




Carleton University

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