DEAD SERIOUS? FUNERAL DIRECTING IN NEW ZEALAND

Cyril Schafer

Abstract


This article examines the history of funeral directing in New Zealand and
highlights a number of significant shifts in occupational orientation. The first identifiable transition involved the shift from undertaker to funeral director in the early twentieth century. Attempts to professionalise the occupation during this period parallel similar developments in the United States, and illustrate the increasing bureaucratisation and rationalisation of human disposal. A more recent shift has occurred in the past three decades. New Zealand funeral directors focused their attention primarily on grief management and emphasised the psychological value of funerary ritual. Funeral directors also played a significant role in personalising funerals and offering ‘life-centred’ funeral options. Despite the important influence of international industry developments, funeral directors in New Zealand have purveyed and promoted personalised post-mortem practices and attempted to distance New Zealand funerals from perceived ‘impersonal’ British practices, as well as the ‘excesses’ of North American obsequies.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11157/sites-vol4iss1id29