Throughout its establishment and development sociology has been concerned almost exclusively with problems of life, rather than with the subject of death. However, if we take seriously Peter Berger's (1967) point that death is an essential feature of the human condition that requires people to develop means of coping with it, then to neglect death is to ignore one of the few universal parameters in which social and individual life are constructed. In this paper we examine the relationship between self-identity, the sequestration of death, and the period Anthony Giddens terms late' or high modernity', and argue that the organisation and experience of death have become increasingly privatised. This has acquired particular significance as a result of three central characteristics of high modernity: the growing role played by the reflexive re-ordering of biographical narratives in the construction of self-identity (Giddens 1991); the increased identification of the self with the body; and the shrinkage of the scope of the sacred. This is not to argue that people lack survival strategies when dealing with death, but that these strategies become increasingly precarious and problematic in the conditions of high modernity. This artice was selected as a BSA 60th Anniversary Key Article.