our work and legacy 2015 – 2017
The Corpse Project was an independent research and engagement project asking ‘How can we lay our bodies to rest so they help the living and the earth?’
What do we need to know to make the right choice for us as individuals? How can our choices help our acceptance of death, the healing of mourners and the well-being of the earth?
It’s not a topic most of us spend a lot of time on – possibly rightly so. We did not think that we all needed to become death geeks. But many people would like to know the impact of their choices, for themselves, involved others and (where it is part of someone’s values) for the wider environment.
The work took place at a time when new developments are underway too, such as composting and dissolving the body, so it was a good moment to explore the topic. We continue to take an interest and will engage in the debate as we can.
The project was small-scale and focused, but integrated and holistic: it was a privilege to work between the boundaries of science, policy, the law, religion and faith, history and culture. The project was led by Sophie Churchill with a steering group (thank you!). The work was enriched by the groups and individuals whose opinions are captured in the findings below.
We are grateful to the Wellcome Trust for funding this work.
- Ashes and creation
- History, change, and the future
- What teenagers say
- Trans voices and advice to the trans community
Follow us on Twitter @corpseproject
What we dID
Working with the public, special interest groups, scientists, artists, academics and others, we:
- Listened to what people think, feel and know.
- Carried out scientific and social research on the body after death.
- Took part in the wider debate about death and dying.
- Learnt from global and historic perspectives.
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Why it matters
Over a century ago, people in cities needed new solutions that cemeteries could not provide. Pioneers were brave enough to push for cremation, in the face of scepticism and opposition, and today over 75% of bodies are cremated in England and Wales. c500,000 deaths occur each year in England and Wales.
What we do with the body, our home for all our lives, matters on all sorts of levels. We can’t ignore the costs to us and future generations of the poor disposal of our bodies. With land scarcity, climate change, and when many feel a sense of detachment from the corpse and its treatment, it is time for practice to evolve again.
“O Friend, the cloth from which your burial shroud will be cut may have already reached the market and yet you remain unaware!” – Imam al-Ghazali