Dr. Candi K. Cann teaches World Cultures, Social World, World Religions, Death and Dying in World Religions, and Buddhism at Baylor University, and teaches in both the BIC and the Religion department. She received both her A.M. and Ph.D. in Comparative Religion from Harvard University, an M.A. in Asian Religions from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a B.A. in Asian Studies and English from St. Andrews in North Carolina.
Dr. Cann's research focuses on death and dying, and the impact of remembering (and forgetting) in shaping how lives are recalled, remembered and celebrated. She examined this theme through martyrdom in her early scholarship, but more recently has shifted to "virtual" memorials, specifically examining internet memorials and social network sites as a way for remembering the dead. Dr. Cann's last book, Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-first Century with the University Press of Kentucky (2014), centered on grief and memorialization in the contemporary world. She has also written various chapters and articles on digital death and grief. Her next book, Dying to Eat: Cross Cultural Perspectives on Food, Death and the Afterlife (also with University Press of Kentucky, 2017), is an edited collection on the intersection of food in death and grief. For her newest book, WhiteOut (Indiana University Press, anticipated 2018), Dr. Cann is researching diversity in death, examining the whitening of the funeral industry and death studies, and arguing that the field of death and grief has been heavily influenced by white and Protestant worldviews.
Dr. Cann's own fieldwork has largely occurred in China and Argentina. She has lived and worked in various regions of China, first working for the Amity Foundation in China, and later helping write the first Let's Go travel guide for China. Additionally, she has lived and worked in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in addition to studying at the Departamento Ecuménico de Investigaciones (DEI) in San Jose, Costa Rica, and heading the Latino Cultural Center (as GA) for two years at MIT. Currently, she heads the Baylor in Hawaii Program, slated to start the summer of 2018.
Dr. Cann regularly blogs for the Huffington Post on issues related to death and dying, and actively tweets on the subject as well. When she is not thinking about and writing on death, Dr. Cann attempts to live well, pursuing her love of travel, reading, surfing, and writing poetry.
Industry Expertise (1)
Areas of Expertise (7)
Death and Dying
Modern Mourning Practices
Hispanic Bereavement Customs
Princeton University Visiting Scholar (professional)
Princeton Theological Seminary, Visiting Scholar (professional)
NEH/ALA Muslim Journeys Bookshelf Grant (Co-PI) (professional)
Harvard University: Ph.D., Comparative Religion 2009
Harvard University: A.M., Comparative Religion 2009
University of Hawaii at Manoa: M.A., Asian Religions 1996
St. Andrew's Presbyterian College: B.A., English 1992
Media Appearances (16)
From virtual reality afterlife games to death doulas: Is our view of dying finally changing?
USA Today online
Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor of religion in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, is quoted on how technology can impact the grieving process. Cann’s research focuses on death and dying, and the impact of remembering (and forgetting) in shaping how lives are recalled, remembered and celebrated.
Funeral directors see too much senseless death. Here’s how they try to save lives
The Kansas City Star online
VIDEO: Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor of religion in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core, is quoted in this article on how funeral directors are calling for action to reduce gun-related deaths.
Baylor: A creation-diamond startup backed by Mark Cuban is brining millennial flair to the death-care industry
Business Insider online
Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor in religion and Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and author of Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-first Century, is quoted about research she is leading on “attachment objects,” such as cremation diamonds, and their impact on grief.
Innovative Startups Like Eterneva Are At The Forefront Of The Growing DeathTech Industry
Tech Times online
Candi Cann, Ph.D., a religion professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core (BIC) and noted researcher on death and dying, is quoted in this article about her research on anchor objects as a means of maintaining continuing bonds with loved ones who have deceased.
Don’t Haunt Mourners with Targeted Ads
Built In online
Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor of religion, expands on American grieving traditions and its connection to Protestant roots in the U.S. in this article about how Americans cope with grief.
University Research Study Solidifies Positive Impact of Anchor Items on Grieving Individuals
PR Newswire online
Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor, Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and Religion, led a study with Eternerva that analyzed how anchor items help those grieving the loss of a loved one and how aspects of “memorial diamonds” can have positive impacts on those struggling with grief.
Exploring digital death
BBC "Digital Planet" online
AUDIO: Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor of religion in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core and author of "Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the 21st Century," takes part in this discussion that explores digital death and how the COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to update our death rituals and move most of our grieving online.
Global Experts Launch Online Guide for Life, Death During COVID-19 Era
Baylor Media and Public Relations online
The Virtual Funeral Collective has launched a new website called COVID White Paper, which features an extensive report, guides for laypeople and professionals and dozens of links to resources, with videos forthcoming. Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor of religion in Baylor Interdisciplinary Core , is the lead editor of the collective's report , "Death, Grief and Funerals in the COVID Age.”
Life events across Central Texas falling prey to COVID-19
Waco Tribune-Herald online
Bill Hoy, D.Min., and Candi Cann, Ph.D., experts on death and dying, are quoted in this article about the how COVID-19 has impacted life events, including weddings, birthday parties, graduation ceremonies and funerals.
Grief process intensified as social distancing impacts funerals, pastoral care | #intimeslikethese
Baptist News Global online
Baylor BIC religion professor Candi Cann, Ph.D., is quoted in this article about how social distancing is complicating the grief process during the COVID-19 pandemic but that cards, flowers and meals are still ways to comfort the grief-stricken, as well as modern technological approaches.
Funerals Pose Challenges Amid ‘Social Distancing’ and Travel Restrictions During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Baylor Media and Public Relations online
Baylor University experts on death and dying, Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor in the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core of the Honors College and Bill Hoy, clinical professor of medical humanities, suggest alternate ways to find comfort while grieving during COVID-19 pandemic.
Eterneva Commissions Grief Research from Baylor University to Add Academic Rigor to Grief Wellness Program
PR Newswire online
Eterneva, an Austin-based startup that celebrates the lives of people and pets by turning their ashes into diamonds, is commissioning new grief-related research to be led by Candi Cann, Ph.D., associate professor of religion, whose research focuses on death, dying and remembrance.
When last tweets become last words
“Before, we could hide death. We put death in the hospital. We professionalized death by making funeral home workers dress the corpse and make it look pretty,” says Candi Cann, a Baylor University professor and author of the book Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-first Century. “We’ve hidden it in a way and social media has really brought it back in our lives.”
Social media is transforming the way we view death and grieving
Public Radio International online
“People have talked to the deceased for as long as we can remember, it’s just that we never before listened in. Social network memorials have allowed us to do this,” says Candi Cann, a religion professor at Baylor University and the author of "Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century." "It’s not the conversation that’s different, it’s the fact that it is now public.”
Candi Cann talked about her book, Virtual Aferlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century, in which she talks about how the rituals of death and grieving have changed throughout the past millennium...
Modern Mourning: New Ways We Honor Our Dead
We humans have never been particularly comfortable with death. That's entirely understandable, of course. Death is permanent and largely unpleasant and we don't know what -- if anything -- is on the other side. For millennia, various cultural and religious rituals have helped us process our feelings about death, providing comfort when a loved one dies. But those rituals are fast disappearing in our increasingly secularized society -- and we actually really need them. That's the contention of author and professor Candi K. Cann in her forthcoming book, "Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the 21st Century." In her research, Cann identifies several emerging trends in modern culture that seem to suggest we're searching for new ways to live with death.
Research Grants (2)
Saving and Selling Black Bodies: Examining the Role of Christian Identity in the African-american Funeral Home
African American churches and funeral homes have always held close ties with each other, serving as bastions of black identity in the United States, from the formation of the first AME burial societies in Philadelphia in 1778. These close ties between church and funeral home continue today in the contemporary church. In 1995, the National Baptist Convention (NBC) accepted a $100,000 donation from Canadian company, the Loewen Group, the second largest funeral home chain in North America, to designate them as “the funeral home of choice” for National Baptist churches and its members. The National Funeral Directors and Mortician’s Association (NFDMA), a group representing the black funeral home business, viewed this as a betrayal of both black identity and African American religiosity, stating that the NBC essentially sold black churches, and betrayed their culture, in exchange for a hefty donation. In a culture where black bodies have been routinely bought and sold, deathcare has been seen as a realm where the body can be reclaimed along with the spirit. How does the corporatization of the death industry in the United States change the identity politics of the African American funeral home, and in what ways does this commercialization impact black religiosity and identity?
Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton
While at Princeton, she will be developing her next monograph on cross-cultural aspects on grief and mourning and writing an article on the commodification of body parts as found in saint relics and lynching souvenirs...
Mothers and Spirits: Religious Identity, Alcohol, and DeathReligions
2016 Mothers and Spirits examines the intersection of women, alcohol, and death through a comparative analysis. Offering a brief history of the study of drinking, followed by a short analysis of drinking in European and Chinese cultures, Cann examines two religious texts central to the roles of women and alcohol in Chinese religious thought and Christianity. Finally, Cann utilizes the historical and textual background to contextualize her ethnographic study of women, alcohol, and death in Mexican Catholicism, Chinese religions, and American Southern Baptist Christianity...
Contemporary Hispanic American Death PracticesThanatos
2016 This article is an initial review of the everyday death and bereavement practices of the United States Latina/o community, and is meant to serve as an initial corrective to the traditional studies of American death that present death from a largely Anglo and Protestant perspective...
Tombstone Technology: Deathscapes in Asia, the U.K. and the U.S.Digital Literary and Interaction
2013 This chapter examines QR codes and the impact of smartphone technology on tombstones and column bariums. It briefly surveys Human-Computer Interaction related to smartchip technology in the funeral industry in Japan, Korea, China, the United Kingdom and the United States. Then it examines how tombstone technology impacts the way people think about death and remember the dead, particularly in terms of religious expression...