Marking the Dead
The Individual & the Collective - HNRS 2364

Instructor(s): Troy Lovata

Course Description

This course is designed to get students out of the classroom and into the field to conduct first-hand, qualitative research into the practice of culture. Students will have seminar discussions about, and undertake readings into, the transmission of culture across time. But their primary activity will be to observe and participate in culture as it unfolds in the field through a series of field trips during scheduled class time.The past is fundamental to the formulation of culture. What people do, what they believe, and how they interact is often based on using the past to define the present and attempting to carry the present into the future. This is especially apparent in the ways in which people mark, commemorate, and actively remember the dead. Students in this course will study and become participant observers in the links made between generations of New Mexicans in comparison and contrast to wider American culture and practices around the world. Students will study how New Mexicans mark the dead in a variety of circumstances, including: study of how Albuquerque cemeteries developed and change; first-hand observations of roadside descansos and ghost bikes that commemorate pedestrians and bicyclists killed by motorists; analysis of the ways we remember and forget the heroics of historical figures and war veterans from across New Mexico, Albuquerque, and UNM; examination of how the crash of TWA Flight 260 is marked in the Sandia Mountains; study of the development and change in pet cemeteries; and study of the spread and change in celebrating Dia de Los Muertos.


Books:Skulls to the Living, Bread to the Dead: The Day of the Dead in Mexico and Beyond by Stanley BrandesDescansos: The Sacred Landscape of New Mexico by Joan AlessiCrash of TWA Flight 260 by Charles Williams (optional)

Book chapters:Selections from Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy by Kenneth E. Foote; Inauthentic Archaeologies: Public Uses and Abuses of the Past by Troy Lovata; The Secret Cemetery by Francis, Kellaher and Neophytou; and Soul in Stone: Cemetery Art from America's Heartland by John Brown.

A series of academic journal articles about death practices and controversies of commemorating divisive events from the field of Anthropology, Archaeology, Cultural Studies, Cultural Geography, and Art History.

Films: Errol Morris’ Gates of Heaven; Disney’s Coco; Brook’s Ghost Bikes.

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About the Instructor(s): Troy Lovata

Troy Lovata, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Honors College and Faculty Affiliate in UNM’s Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, where, for two decades, he has taught courses on landscape, culture, and how the past is defined in the present. He holds degrees in Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from Colorado State University (Bachelors) and The University of Texas (Masters and Doctorate).