Death at Lunchtime: An Ethnographic Study of Locals Lunching at Cimetière Des Rois
Michael Singer, an author on the topic of inner growth, asserts that happiness
in life comes from remembering death, for it is the temporal nature of life that gives it
There is a famous old cemetery in Geneva where many of the big names in
Genevois history have been interred. Today, many professionals, seemingly too caught
up in climbing the corporate ladder to trouble themselves with inner growth, go to the
cemetery to have lunch. From about noon to two o’clock every summer weekday
afternoon, you will find the cemetery abuzz. It takes on a peculiar character as the
living intermingle with the dead, sitting on benches or on the grass interspersed
between the tombstones with their ham and cheese sandwiches.
My paper uses short-term ethnographic fieldwork to investigate how these
luncheoners interact with and conceptualise the cemetery as a public space. Are they
here to visit the dead, or do they come here simply because it offers a pleasing green
space? How does the visual landscape of tombstones impact the way they interact with
the space? Do they consider death over their lunch breaks?
public space, cemetery, associational functionalism, heterotopia.