Keping Wu

From «Cloud Tomb-Sweeping» to «Cloud Ethnography». Alternative means of mourning and research during Covid-19 in China

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Cloud Tomb-Sweeping, online memorialization, Covid-19, ethnographic methods, China

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese government has introduced strict measures of «social distancing», which include the shutting down of places where people gather, such as schools and shopping centers, as well as cemeteries and religious spaces. While much attention has been paid to economic loss during the pandemic, very little research has been done on how and to what extent people’s religious lives have been affected. Have people continued to honor their religious traditions in this pandemic? What other alternatives and opportunities could arise in this situation? This essay adopts the state promotion of Cloud Tomb-Sweeping and other alternative means of mourning and memorialization during this year’s Qingming Festival as an example in order to explore how the state governs emotions through technology, how online memorialization challenges the private and public in grieving, and how digital media accelerate metamorphosis in traditional ways of mourning and commemoration. Furthermore, it reflects upon the limits and opportunities for ethnographic research created by the pandemic.

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