Urban cemeteries' potential as sites for cultural encounters
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Swensen, Grete; Skår, Margrete. Urban cemeteries' potential as sites for cultural encounters. Mortality 2018 Population increase has drawn attention to the need in cities for easily accessible and attractive public spaces that will promote interaction regardless of gender, age, ethnicity and religious belief. This paper focuses on the role urban cemeteries play in a culturally and religiously diverse society. Norway is described as an increasingly secularised society. Immigration and transmigration, on the other hand, have brought a revived interest in religion and interreligious interaction. We explore two questions that relate to the cemetery as a public shared urban space: The first concerns the need for communities of all faiths and none to access burial space that meets their need. The second relates to the appropriateness of using cemetery as amenity space in a multi-cultural context. Diverse qualitative methods have been used; a focus group interview with participants from different religious and life-philosophy communities, interviews with key informants representing various religious communities and with visitors in two cemeteries in Oslo in 2014. The findings imply that there is a commonality that bridges differences: sharing human compassion. These sites have a potential in stimulating intercultural and interreligious encounters. Their special character as open shared urban sites can increase understanding and acceptance of each other’s difference and hereby render strangeness and differences harmless.