Just wanted to share these very relevant articles that I read a while ago.
This first one is almost a modern-day mirror of the events of Ding Village as it follows how one family in El Salvador switched from the bakery business to producing coffins in the wake of high rates of gang violence. The article eerily echoes many of the same elements that we saw in the novel including family disagreements, levels of coffin intricacy, and ethical concerns about profiting off of death. Unlike Ding Hui, these families building coffins still seem to be struggling to earn a living profit because of the mass proliferation of the coffin industry in their city.
This second article deals more broadly with burials and death and examines changes in US traditions around coffins. The article follows a company called Recompose that aims to essentially compost human bodies rather than embalming and burying them or cremating them.
What constitutes desecration of a corpse is culture-bound; one man’s desecration is another’s honorable final disposition… The only characteristic that funerary mores seem to share is intentionality. Disposing of the dead in an arbitrary manner—leaving a body where it fell on the battlefield, or tossing it with others into a mass grave, limbs akimbo—is a universal sign of disrespect. Intention is how we signal care, whether or not we believe that the soul persists, or whether we believe in a soul at all.
Although the workers at this company take a very different approach to burials than the residents of Ding Village, there is still a common thread of purpose and care for the dead. These dilemmas over how to bury our dead signify an ongoing preoccupation with honoring them, despite the fact that the dead do not know whether they have been cremated or decomposed (in the eyes of some).