Appointed As

Digital Matters Laboratory Postdoctoral Fellow


ACLS Emerging Voices Fellowships program


University of Utah

PhD Field of Study

PhD, Art History and Visual Culture, Duke University

Dissertation Abstract

“In Perpetuity: Funerary Monuments, Consumerism and Social Reform in Paris (1804–1924)”

The cemetery reforms of the Napoleonic era formulated a heavily regulated system of burial that, most radically, ensured all citizens the right to a separate plot, regardless of class or religion. This not only transformed the manner in which people were buried, but also how the lives of otherwise unremarkable
individuals would be commemorated, remembered, and valued. Particularly as the middle classes of Paris acquired greater social mobility, the cemetery increasingly became a place of social distinction. Yet burial was only guaranteed for five years, unless one purchased a concession: a private land grant that transformed
public space into parcels of private property temporarily or in perpetuity. As only a small fraction of the population could afford plots in perpetuity, the vast majority of burials were, from conception, temporary.
Consequently, it has typically been only the most expensive tombs that have survived, leaving scholars with little material evidence with which to study popular commemorative practices. Contrary to past studies of French cemeteries, which have tended to prioritize architects and sculptors, this dissertation critically assesses the role of the marbrier (stonecutter) as the chief producer of funerary monuments, and their middle-class clients as central to the visual culture of commemoration in nineteenth-century urban spaces.
Since extant examples of vernacular monuments are rare, this dissertation takes a database-driven approach, analyzing commercial almanacs, work logs, and burial records to compensate for losses in the material record. This allows for the identification of significant patterns in the development of the funerary
monuments industry that—when contextualized among more traditional forms of art-historical evidence—reveal the peculiar relationship between funerary practices and the emerging consumer culture and urban reform campaigns of nineteenth-century Paris. This work firstly contributes to discussions of how database driven methods can be used to more accurately reconsider subjects in visual and material culture studies, especially in cases where the objects of inquiry have not survived into the present; and, secondly, provides the first study dedicated to the popular market for funerary monuments in France and the regulatory environment that spurred its development within the context of urban, social, and economic changes at the
beginning of the Modern period.