As the contemplation of death, thanatopsis is the attempt to come to terms with mortality; in the contemporary world, dark heritage and tourism have become main conduits for this practice. This paper draws on ethnographic research conducted in Genoa’s Staglieno monumental cemetery between 2016 and 2019 to examine the events--poetic readings, guided walking tours, and outdoor theater performances--that have become popular against the backdrop of the local tourist industry and its economy of cultural experiences; its goal is to explore the strategies through which the evocative power of storytelling promotes the contemplation of mortality. Drawing on Heidegger (1962), I argue that the narrations shared during these events grant the dead a temporary Dasein: a “being there” that interrupts the silence of death, even though only for a moment. I conclude that the poets, the volunteers, and the theater troupes active in Staglieno use their storytelling practices as a narrative mirror through which they merge the spaces of life with those of death, thus providing their audiences with the opportunity to reflect upon their common humanity and their shared mortality.
Guano, Emanuela. The Mirror of the Dead: Thanatoptic Storytelling in an Italian Cemetery. Anthropology and Humanism, Jan.3, 2022. https://doi.org/10.1111/anhu.12369