Jill Jie’en Tan

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Yale U.

Grant number

Gr. 10353

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Tan, Jill Jie'en (Yale U.) "Corpses Incorporated: The Funeral Profession and the Geopolitics of Death in Singapore"

This ethnography of the contemporary management of death in Singapore considers the convergence of human corporeality and the corporate form, as embodied by various public and private institutions. Within this nexus, it explores four distinct but interconnected aspects of incorporation and expulsion: land, wellbeing and health, citizenship, and ethnicity. This project explores the repeated displacement of bodies from burial grounds and crematoria, and the parallel displacement and relocation of funeral homes. It examines the provision of death care and after-death services as a public good, and the related but distinct claim to providing a ‘good death’ (Hertz 1960; Lipton 2017) as a moral imperative stressed by funeral corporations in Singapore. It considers the material realities of how dead bodies and human remains are treated in land scarce Singapore, and asks how access to land and real estate features in funeral corporations’ drives for corporate expansion, as a historically marginalized labor force. It then examines how spiritual and physical health are coded in Singapore in relation to deathscapes, asking how public health regulation shapes the symbolic landscape of death over time. Corporeality, affect, memory, and taboo are foregrounded in understanding how sedimented histories of death are unearthed or further buried.