Death in Africa: A History c1800 to Present Day

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An AHRC funded project, October 2006 – February 2012

Death and the management of death are inescapable subjects in much of present-day Africa. In Rwanda, people live daily with the repercussions and memory of the 1994 genocide. In the conflict-ridden Democratic Republic of the Congo debates continue on whether to repatriate the body of former President Mobutu. In the “Pack up and Go” coffin workshop in Southern Malawi, children are employed in the manufacture of collapsible coffins which can be transported on the backs of bicycles. In East, Central and Southern Africa communities mourn daily the untimely deaths of the victims of HIV/AIDS, older people complain that there will be no-one left to bury them, and children become experts at nursing their dying parents.

The history of death in Africa is a valid subject in its own right. No comprehensive examination of this subject exists. There is no doubt, however, that present circumstances, in particular the HIV/AIDS epidemic, make this project all the more important and urgent.

The project is based in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge and the Department of History at Goldsmiths, University of London.