The Corpse Project online survey November 2016.
We did a simple publicly-accessible online survey to gather interesting perspectives on future work in particular, without any attempt to achieve a representative sample or a statistically significant number of responses. There were 27 respondees, including individuals with an interest, universities, writers and artists and people working in a range of fields within the death industry.
In terms of relative levels of interest in The Corpse Project’s various pieces of work to date, burial and returning the body to the natural cycle came top, but this was followed closely by everything else we have done. Specific projects with teenagers and the trans community scored lowest (but have attracted strong interest in the media).
In terms of priorities for future work, largescale education and engagement with the general public and special interest groups came top, although there was also strong support for training of professionals and research into the best future techniques.
Respondees were interested in the process of social and cultural evolution and putting the work in the wider historical context, for example: ‘Understanding the social context and how change happens strikes me as particularly important if we’re going to try to engineer a change or present more acceptable options’.
One person said that on we were focusing too much on the environment: ‘The material on social history is really interesting and useful, but for me there is too much focus within the project on the impact of the corpse on the environment. If the average human eats thousands of animals in their lifetime, then the disposal of the remains of this one animal is an irrelevance in environmental terms except perhaps as a symbol of how we relate to our environment’.
But the concept of sustainability was seen to be central to the work by one participant: ‘I think it is important to emphasise the commitment to sustainability, which has become a bit of a meaningless marketing buzzword – but the project really does address it, both in terms of environmental sustainability and also in the sense of finding alternatives to an industry and a cultural mindset (burial in perpetuity etc.) that our country literally can’t sustain’.
Other comments included:
‘People need to view alternatives to traditional burial or cremation as viable choices rather than quirky eccentricities. There should be more options readily available’.
‘It seems to me that the public being on side with new technology is quite different to informing them. I was going to place ‘knowledge and research gaps’ in top position, but from what I’ve heard of the Corpse Project so far, lots of possibilities are emerging and the challenge is posing them in a way that sounds broadly acceptable and humdrum rather than bohemian’.
‘I’d say to engage with the elderly would be a top priority and wonder why this isn’t an option. Also, surely one of the priorities is to change what is considered ‘normal’, but perhaps too early to engage the death industry on a large scale’.
The Corpse Project responses
Both the physical, technical, elements of dealing with the corpse and the processes of social and cultural change are important, and how they relate to each other. This is important territory for our work.
The environment – or wider sustainability – is one dimension of what our work and needs to be balanced by, and relate to, others.
We will continue to do our best to avoid bohemianism and keep eccentricity in check!