Spring 2022 - SA 443 D100

Ethnographic Sensibility in Action (A) (4)

The Social Lives of the Dead

Class Number: 2799

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 10 – Apr 11, 2022: Fri, 12:30–4:20 p.m.

  • Instructor:

    Pamela Stern
    Office: AQ 5066
    Office Hours: Tues, 10:30am - 12pm via Zoom or in-person
  • Prerequisites:

    Minimum of 72 units including either SA 101 or SA 150.



Selected Topics in Anthropology. Seminar exploring the topic through discussion, and developing original ideas that engage with anthropological theory and methods. Course topic varies with the instructor and section. See detailed course outline for more information. SA 443 may be repeated for credit only when a different topic is taught.


The dead are everywhere, and surprisingly lively in human worlds. This combined undergraduate and graduate seminar will examine ethnographic materials concerning the dead as a tool for unpacking anthropological theory. We will investigate some of the many ways that the dead are made to remain involved in the lives and well-being of the living. Topics will include assisted dying, the missing and disappeared, the treatment of the dead bodies and body parts, memorials, the “good” death, state-led mass murder, unmarked graves, etc.

As an advanced seminar, class meetings will be largely devoted to student-led discussions of readings, films, and other course materials. Within the broad framework of the course, students will have the opportunity to propose specific topics and materials for inquiry.


At the end of this course students should:

  • have developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for social theory and be prepared to apply it in new contexts;
  • become familiar with the large and diverse ethnographic literature concerning the treatment of the dead;
  • develop confidence and skill for critical analysis.


  • Weekly brief critical analyses of readings and other course materials 20%
  • Constructive and ongoing participation in classroom activities 20%
  • A book review essay 20%
  • A term project to be developed in consultation with the professor 40%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Academic Honesty and Student Conduct Policies: The Department of Sociology & Anthropology follows SFU policy in relation to grading practices, grade appeals (Policy T20.01), and academic honesty and student conduct procedures (S10‐S10.05). Unless otherwise informed by your instructor in writing, in graded written assignments you must cite the sources you rely on and include a bibliography/list of references, following an instructor-approved citation style. It is the responsibility of students to inform themselves of the content of SFU policies available on the SFU website.

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.

The Sociology and Anthropology Student Union, SASU, is a governing body of students who are engaged with the department and want to build the SA community. Get involved!  Follow Facebook and Instagram pages or visit our website.



Stonington, S. (2020). The Spirit Ambulance: Choreographing the End of Life in Thailand. University of California Press.

Print ISBN: 978-0-520343900
eText ISBN: 978-0-520975231 (VitalSource)

Verdery, K. (2000). The Political Lives of Dead Bodies: Reburial and Post-Socialist Change. Columbia University Press.
ISBN: 978-0-231112314

Podcasts, videos, journal articles, and book chapters (most available through CANVAS)

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the spring 2022 term.