To Bury or to Burn? The Conflict between Environment for the Dead and Living Space of the Urbanization Process in Contemporary Vietnam

Dinh Hong Hai


A grave in the cemetery or a cremation urn in a pagoda is the eternal resting place of the deceased in Vietnamese belief. It is a sacred place, playing a central role in funeral and worship rituals. Outwardly, it appears to be a place that has been separated from secular life, but in reality, every cemetery is a secular space under the management of the government or private companies. The process of urbanization in Vietnam over the past decades has caused cemeteries to increase their charges rapidly, thus, the conflict between the environment for the dead (nơi an nghỉ/nơi mai táng/nghĩa trang) and the living space is increasingly fierce. In that context, cremating and sending the cremation urn of loved ones to the temple seems like a reasonable solution for many families nowadays. However, the diversity of religions and beliefs in Vietnam along with the confusion or loss of urns in some pagodas recently has led to the debate of burial or cremation becoming a very passionate topic among the family and the whole society. Based on the anthropology of death approach, this research focuses on the contemporary discourses on the concept of the afterlife as well as the challenges caused by the massive urbanization process in Vietnam over the past three decades. This research endeavors to discover how the Vietnamese government and people are facing these challenges.

Received 3th June 2022; Revised 30th August 2022; Accepted 10th September 2022


Afterlife Discourses; Anthropology of Death; Burial and Cremation; Environmental Conflicts


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