Courtney Applewhite (she/her)

Death ritual and grief; North American religions; secularism and secular people; religion and science; ritual studies
Curriculum Vitae:


I am currently completing my dissertation, which examines the emergence and values associated with environmentally conscious disposition options at death. This analysis approaches the practices of natural burial, alkaline hydrolysis, and natural organic reduction as value-laden choices at death that may or may not be religious. My chapters outline the legal challenges to the adoption of these practices, the values associated with them, as well as the rituals being created or re-imagined in response. Drawing from work in death studies and religious studies and theories adjacent to feminist studies, environmental studies, and secular studies along with ethnographic field work, I will argue that these emergent practices are creating a space around death to enact previously marginalized identities.

This work continues my investigation of death rituals and beliefs that are adjacent to the mainstream. My master’s thesis, entitled “Institutionalized Individuality: Death Practices and Afterlife Beliefs in Unity Church, Unitarian Universalism, and Spiritualism in Santa Barbara,” examined the way in which the notions of “individuality” and “personal” interpretations of death and afterlife are shaped in liberal religious institutions.