Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology



The roles of the agency of the dead in the lives of individuals in contemporary society 

Code And Title:

ERC DEAGENCY no. 101095729 - The roles of the agency of the dead in the lives of individuals in contemporary society  


1. 9. 2023 – 30.8.2028



European Research Council (ERC Advanced grant)

Research Organization:

University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts 



Head Of The Project:

Prof. Mirjam Mencej, PhD

The DEAGENCY project will provide a broad understanding of the role of the agency of the dead in individuals’ lives. Instead of treating the dead as mere expressions of “folk belief”, or symbols and metaphors of larger cultural and social problems and changes, they will be treated from the perspective of their agency, affecting the body, ideas, and actions of individuals (and vice versa), actively involved in the intricate relationships between individuals and larger social and cultural processes.  

The project will observe how individuals are affected by the agency of the dead (and vice versa): in what way it affects their thoughts, values, and behaviour; how it is involved in their social relations with others; and what impact its effect may have on an individual in a wider social, cultural, and political context. To gain insight into the widest possible set of roles of the agency of the dead in individuals’ lives, the project will examine the interplay between the agency of the dead and individuals, situated within a variety of disparate social, cultural, and religious contexts.  

Research will take place in four post-socialist countries: Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina and will focus on the roles of the dead within three fields of social and cultural changes and problems in the post-socialist period:

a) the effects of the political past, specifically, mass graves,
b) the changing religious landscape, and  
c) the changing social life in rural communities.  

For the collection of data, the project will apply ethnographic methods, specifically in-depth semi-structured interviews and participant observation. The aim of the project is a comprehensive theory of the roles that the dead fulfil for individuals in contemporary society.