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Abstract

This dissertation argues that political succession occurring on the death of a ruler requires a special form of legitimation. Under such circumstances funerary practices are structured so as to argue in favor of the legitimacy of the transfer of power. This is done by the use of lavish obsequies and forms of interment that extol the virtue of the deceased and seek to associate the new ruler with the predecessor. Such funerary practices are a type of argument that convey clear political messages to society and even to specific discreet groups within society. In addition, a comparison of the funerary practices of the political elite to those of the rest of society allows for a clear determination of how elite death practices differ from those of the populous at large and why this takes on political saliency. The theoretical model of this process is a modified version of Easton’s (1965) model of political legitimation. My model emphasizes how regimes utilize personal attributes of rulers, either real or imagined, to legitimate both future rulers and the regime as a whole. This shows the connections among the regime itself, the main figures in the regime, and popular approval. While the literature indicates that elections are a key to legitimating transfers of power in modern democratic republics it is less clear how this is achieved when vacancy follows the death of a high official. The nature of political succession upon death is more important in these cases than the exact form of regime. As a result, the legitimation of succession upon the death of a ruler in office is pursued in part by use of funerary practices regardless of regime type.

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