Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography and Anthropology

Document Type



Roadside death memorials are a response to the sudden, tragic death of a loved one; and are appearing with increasing regularity in developed and developing countries across the globe. In Mexico, however, wayside memorials and shrines of religiosity are a centuries-old tradition. This work, an effort to understand why the exact location of a person’s death is so important that a sacred place must be created where no place is intended, is basic and exploratory research. A multi-method, and cross-disciplinary case study, based upon the author’s fieldwork in Mexico, produces massive data and constitutes a robust explanatory triangulation. A geographic survey identifies 9102 artifacts at 6891 locations and answers the question: “what is where?” An ethnographic method, applied to place as the physical manifestation of culture, minutely describes individual artifacts at 14% of the sites. Together these methods produce an interpretation, or reading, of the ‘landscape as text’ at the state, regional, and national scales as well as for individual artifacts and sites. The same concept of multi-scalar investigation is applied to the context in which this landscape appears. Context is addressed along two fronts: the conceptual or theoretical context, and the narrative context of the author’s field experience. The former is divided into three topics: religion and the conceptualization of death, emotions as a force, and culture as a dynamic mixture of specific cultures. The minute details of conceptual context, personal experience, and empirical description form a tapestry of hybrid culture and place. These, uniquely Latin American, ‘Mestizo Places’ signify multiple and simultaneous concepts of be-ing in the world, exist within different realities at different analytic scales, and resist, selectively accept, and modify modernity.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Miles Richardson