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Enlightened Burial: Death and Science in the Spanish Caribbean, 1800-1870

Wade, Bethany M (2020) Enlightened Burial: Death and Science in the Spanish Caribbean, 1800-1870. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation is concerned with three lines of inquiry. In what ways did local early modern practices of burial inform Caribbean populations’ engagement with modern regimes of the dead over the course of the nineteenth century? How did the growing influence of medical and public health officials over the dead alter relations between ecclesiastical and civil authorities? How did religious and medical conceptions of the dead compete, interact, and influence burial practice? This dissertation contends that understanding the changing attitudes toward burial on the islands is central to understanding how modern scientific practices and sensibilities infiltrated life in Caribbean port cities.
By reconstructing the evolving forms of burial in San Juan and Havana, this dissertation illustrates how the patterns established in the early modern period were refashioned in modern practice. Building on recent literature on death and dying in Latin America, I also argue that the adoption of general cemeteries and public health initiatives around the control of bodies were key to processes of liberalization in the region and became intertwined with debates about the role of ecclesiastical and civil authorities in the management of social life. I conclude that, rather than a turn away from religion, the populations of Caribbean port cities adopted hybrid conceptions of death and burial that incorporated both modern medical knowledge with traditional Catholic practice. Scientific and religious perspectives were not incompatible; instead they intertwined in policy and practice to respond to the needs of an increasingly heterodox population.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Wade, Bethany Mbmw73@pitt.edubmw73
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairAndrews, George Reidreid1@pitt.edureid1
Committee ChairPutnam, Laralep12@pitt.edulep12
Committee MemberLangmead, Alisonadlangmead@pitt.eduadlangmead
Committee MemberThum, Gregorthum@pitt.eduthum
Date: 16 September 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 17 June 2020
Approval Date: 16 September 2020
Submission Date: 25 June 2020
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 207
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: death, burial, Caribbean, religion, science, general cemeteries, liberalism, enlightenment
Date Deposited: 16 Sep 2020 15:17
Last Modified: 16 Sep 2022 05:15


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