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Identity beyond death: messages and meanings in Alsatian cemeteries

Journal article
Authors Katharina Vajta
Published in Mortality
ISSN 13576275
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Languages and Literatures
Language en
Keywords Alsace, cemetery, epitaph, identity, linguistic Landscape, memorial
Subject categories Other Humanities not elsewhere specified, Germanic languages, French language, Specific Languages


The French region of Alsace has a strong Germanic tradition, in having shifted four times between France and Germany between 1870 and 1945. Hence, the question of regional and national identity is a recurring one in Alsatian cemeteries, which reflect changing identities in several ways. Starting out from the epitaphs and more precisely the names that are inscribed on the gravestones, the language chosen and the life narratives that are told, this study examines how Alsatian cemeteries express messages of identity intended to last, and also how they contribute to the construction of regional and national identities. Furthermore, the materiality of the tomb is taken into consideration. In sum, the study testifies to how identity operates beyond death. It shows how the Alsatian graves and their cemeteries are endowed with an agency on their own, making cemeteries participate to the construction of regional and national identity.

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