Over the past thirty years, the way Americans experience death has been dramatically altered. The advent of medical technology capable of sustaining life without restoring health has changed where, when, and how we die. In this revelatory study, medical anthropologist Sharon R. Kaufman examines the powerful center of those changes: the hospital, where most Americans die today. She deftly links the experiences of patients and families, the work of hospital staff, and the ramifications of institutional bureaucracy to show the invisible power of the hospital system in shaping death and our individual experience of it. In doing so, Kaufman also speaks to the ways we understand what it means to be human and to be alive.
“An act of courage and a public service.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“This beautifully synthesized and disquieting account of how hospital patients die melds disciplined description with acute analysis, incorporating the voices of doctors, nurses, social workers, and patients in a provocative analysis of the modern American quest for a ‘good death.’”—Publishers Weekly
“Kaufman exposes the bureaucratic and ethical quandaries that hover over the modern deathbed.”—Psychology Today
“Kaufman’s analysis illuminates the complexity of the care of critically ill and dying patients [and] the ambiguity of slogans such as ‘death with dignity,’ ‘quality of life,’ and ‘stopping life support.’ . . . Thought-provoking reading for everyone contemplating the fate of us all.”—New EnglandJournal of Medicine
"At last, she arrives at the fatal end of the plank . . . and, with her hands crossed over her chest, falls straight downward, suspended for a moment in the air before being devoured by the burning pit that awaits her. . . ." This grisly 1829 account by Pierre Dubois demonstrates the usual European response to the Hindu custom of satis sacrificing themselves on the funeral pyres of their husbands—horror and revulsion. Yet to those of the Hindu faith, not least the satis themselves, this act signals the sati's sacredness and spiritual power.
Ashes of Immortality attempts to see the satis through Hindu eyes, providing an extensive experiential and psychoanalytic account of ritual self-sacrifice and self-mutilation in South Asia. Based on fifteen years of fieldwork in northern India, where the state-banned practice of sati reemerged in the 1970s, as well as extensive textual analysis, Weinberger-Thomas constructs a radically new interpretation of satis. She shows that their self-immolation transcends gender, caste and class, region and history, representing for the Hindus a path to immortality.
Winner, Lincoln Group of New York Award of Achievement 2019
From multiple personal tragedies to the terrible carnage of the Civil War, death might be alongside emancipation of the slaves and restoration of the Union as one of the great central truths of Abraham Lincoln’s life. Yet what little has been written specifically about Lincoln and death is insufficient, sentimentalized, or devoid of the rich historical literature about death and mourning during the nineteenth century. The Black Heavens: Abraham Lincoln and Death is the first in-depth account of how the sixteenth president responded to the riddles of mortality, undertook personal mourning, and coped with the extraordinary burden of sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to be killed on battlefields.
Going beyond the characterization of Lincoln as a melancholy, tragic figure, Brian R. Dirck investigates Lincoln’s frequent encounters with bereavement and sets his response to death and mourning within the social, cultural, and political context of his times. At a young age Lincoln saw the grim reality of lives cut short when he lost his mother and sister. Later, he was deeply affected by the deaths of two of his sons, three-year-old Eddy in 1850 and eleven-year-old Willie in 1862, as well as the combat deaths of close friends early in the war. Despite his own losses, Lincoln learned how to approach death in an emotionally detached manner, a survival skill he needed to cope with the reality of his presidency.
Dirck shows how Lincoln gradually turned to his particular understanding of God’s will in his attempts to articulate the meaning of the atrocities of war to the American public, as showcased in his allusions to religious ideas in the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural. Lincoln formed a unique approach to death: both intellectual and emotional, typical and yet atypical of his times. In showing how Lincoln understood and responded to death, both privately and publicly, Dirck paints a compelling portrait of a commander in chief who buried two sons and gave the orders that sent an unprecedented number of Americans to their deaths.
The Celebration of Death in Contemporary Culture investigates the emergence and meaning of the cult of death. Over the last three decades, Halloween has grown to rival Christmas in its popularity. Dark tourism has emerged as a rapidly expanding industry. “Corpse chic” and “skull style” have entered mainstream fashion, while elements of gothic, horror, torture porn, and slasher movies have streamed into more conventional genres. Monsters have become pop culture heroes: vampires, zombies, and serial killers now appeal broadly to audiences of all ages. This book breaks new ground by viewing these phenomena as aspects of a single movement and documenting its development in contemporary Western culture.
This book links the mounting demand for images of violent death with dramatic changes in death-related social rituals. It offers a conceptual framework that connects observations of fictional worlds—including The Twilight Saga, The Vampire Diaries, and the Harry Potter series—with real-world sociocultural practices, analyzing the aesthetic, intellectual, and historical underpinnings of the cult of death. It also places the celebration of death in the context of a longstanding critique of humanism and investigates the role played by 20th-century French theory, posthumanism, transhumanism, and the animal rights movement in shaping the current antihumanist atmosphere.
This timely, thought-provoking book will appeal to scholars of culture, film, literature, anthropology, and American and Russian studies, as well as general readers seeking to understand a defining phenomenon of our age.
Illinois is home to cemeteries and burial grounds dating back to the Native American era. Whether sprawling over thousands of acres or dotting remote woodlands, these treasure troves of local and state history reflect two centuries of social, economic, and technological change. This easy-to-use guidebook invites amateur genealogists, historians, and cemetery buffs to decipher the symbols and uncover the fascinating past awaiting them in Illinois 's resting places. Hal Hassen and Dawn Cobb have combined almost three hundred photographs with expert detail to showcase how cemeteries and burial grounds can teach us about archaeology, folklore, art, geology, and social behavior. Features include
the ways different materials used as gravestones and markers reflect historical trends;
how to understanding the changes in the use of iconographic images;
the story behind architectural features like fencing, roads, and gates;
what enthusiasts can do to preserve local cemeteries for future generations.
Captivating and informed, Cemeteries of Illinois is the only guide you need to unlock the mysteries of our state 's final resting places.
In Couched in Death, Elizabeth P. Baughan offers the first comprehensive look at the earliest funeral couches in the ancient Mediterranean world. These sixth- and fifth-century BCE klinai from Asia Minor were inspired by specialty luxury furnishings developed in Archaic Greece for reclining at elite symposia. It was in Anatolia, however—in the dynastic cultures of Lydia and Phrygia and their neighbors—that klinai first gained prominence not as banquet furniture but as burial receptacles. For tombs, wooden couches were replaced by more permanent media cut from bedrock, carved from marble or limestone, or even cast in bronze. The rich archaeological findings of funerary klinai throughout Asia Minor raise intriguing questions about the social and symbolic meanings of this burial furniture. Why did Anatolian elites want to bury their dead on replicas of Greek furniture? Do the klinai found in Anatolian tombs represent Persian influence after the conquest of Anatolia, as previous scholarship has suggested?
Bringing a diverse body of understudied and unpublished material together for the first time, Baughan investigates the origins and cultural significance of kline-burial and charts the stylistic development and distribution of funerary klinai throughout Anatolia. She contends that funeral couch burials and banqueter representations in funerary art helped construct hybridized Anatolian-Persian identities in Achaemenid Anatolia, and she reassesses the origins of the custom of the reclining banquet itself, a defining feature of ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Baughan explores the relationships of Anatolian funeral couches with similar traditions in Etruria and Macedonia as well as their "afterlife" in the modern era, and her study also includes a comprehensive survey of evidence for ancient klinai in general, based on analysis of more than three hundred klinai representations on Greek vases as well as archaeological and textual sources.
Michael K. Rosenow investigates working people's beliefs, rituals of dying, and the politics of death by honing in on three overarching questions: How did workers, their families, and their communities experience death? Did various identities of class, race, gender, and religion coalesce to form distinct cultures of death for working people? And how did people's attitudes toward death reflect notions of who mattered in U.S. society?
Drawing from an eclectic array of sources ranging from Andrew Carnegie to grave markers in Chicago's potter's field, Rosenow portrays the complex political, social, and cultural relationships that fueled the United States' industrial ascent. The result is an undertaking that adds emotional depth to existing history while challenging our understanding of modes of cultural transmission.
In the early nineteenth century, body snatching was rife because the only corpses available for medical study were those of hanged murderers. With the Anatomy Act of 1832, however, the bodies of those who died destitute in workhouses were appropriated for dissection. At a time when such a procedure was regarded with fear and revulsion, the Anatomy Act effectively rendered dissection a punishment for poverty. Providing both historical and contemporary insights, Death, Dissection, and the Destitute opens rich new prospects in history and history of science. The new afterword draws important parallels between social and medical history and contemporary concerns regarding organs for transplant and human tissue for research.
Why is the American system of death investigation so inconsistent and inadequate? In this unique political and cultural history, Jeffrey Jentzen draws on archives, interviews, and his own career as a medical examiner to look at the way that a long-standing professional and political rivalry controls public medical knowledge and public health.
The Dominion of the Dead
Robert Pogue Harrison University of Chicago Press, 2003 Library of Congress BF789.D4H375 2003 | Dewey Decimal 306.9
How do the living maintain relations to the dead? Why do we bury people when they die? And what is at stake when we do? In The Dominion of the Dead, Robert Pogue Harrison considers the supreme importance of these questions to Western civilization, exploring the many places where the dead cohabit the world of the living—the graves, images, literature, architecture, and monuments that house the dead in their afterlife among us.
This elegantly conceived work devotes particular attention to the practice of burial. Harrison contends that we bury our dead to humanize the lands where we build our present and imagine our future. As long as the dead are interred in graves and tombs, they never truly depart from this world, but remain, if only symbolically, among the living. Spanning a broad range of examples, from the graves of our first human ancestors to the empty tomb of the Gospels to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Harrison also considers the authority of predecessors in both modern and premodern societies. Through inspired readings of major writers and thinkers such as Vico, Virgil, Dante, Pater, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Rilke, he argues that the buried dead form an essential foundation where future generations can retrieve their past, while burial grounds provide an important bedrock where past generations can preserve their legacy for the unborn.
The Dominion of the Dead is a profound meditation on how the thought of death shapes the communion of the living. A work of enormous scope, intellect, and imagination, this book will speak to all who have suffered grief and loss.
The Dying Patient
Orville G., Jr. Brim Russell Sage Foundation, 1970 Library of Congress RC49.D94 | Dewey Decimal 362.11
There has hitherto been limited systematic social research on the prolongation and termination of life, and minimal agreement of the resolution of the moral and social dilemmas that dying provokes. Among the topics discussed by the contributors are: the social context of dying—when, where, and why people die; what they think about death; the cultural background of the patients' attitudes; and how medical practitioners cope with terminal illness. The social, ethical, legal, and economic problems arising from the prolongation and termination of life are also set forth.
Today most people die gradually, from incremental illnesses, rather than from the heart attacks or fast-moving diseases that killed earlier generations. Given this new reality, the essays in Final Acts explore how we can make informed and caring end-of-life choices for ourselves and for those we loveùand what can happen without such planning.
Contributors include patients, caretakers, physicians, journalists, lawyers, social workers, educators, hospital administrators, academics, psychologists, and a poet, and among them are ethicists, religious believers, and nonbelievers. Some write moving, personal accounts of "good" or 'bad" deaths; others examine the ethical, social, and political implications of slow dying. Essays consider death from natural causes, suicide, and aid-in-dying (assisted suicide).
Writing in a style free of technical jargon, the contributors discuss documents that should be prepared (health proxy, do-not-resuscitate order, living will, power of attorney); decision-making (over medical interventions, life support, hospice and palliative care, aid-in-dying, treatment location, speaking for those who can no longer express their will); and the roles played by religion, custom, family, friends, caretakers, money, the medical establishment, and the government.
For those who yearn for some measure of control over death, the essayists in Final Acts, from very different backgrounds and with different personal and professional experiences around death and dying, offer insight and hope.
The Japanese have ambivalent attitudes toward death, deeply rooted in pre-Buddhist traditions. In this scholarly but accessible work, authors Iwasaka and Toelken show that everyday beliefs and customs--particularly death traditions--offer special insight into the living culture of Japan.
Thanks to advances in technology, medicine, Social Security, and Medicare, old age for many Americans is characterized by comfortable retirement, good health, and fulfilling relationships. But there are also millions of people over 65 who struggle with poverty, chronic illness, unsafe housing, social isolation, and mistreatment by their caretakers. What accounts for these disparities among older adults? Sociologist Deborah Carr’s Golden Years? draws insights from multiple disciplines to illuminate the complex ways that socioeconomic status, race, and gender shape the nearly every aspect of older adults’ lives. By focusing on an often-invisible group of vulnerable elders, Golden Years? reveals that disadvantages accumulate across the life course and can diminish the well-being of many.
Carr connects research in sociology, psychology, epidemiology, gerontology, and other fields to explore the well-being of older adults. On many indicators of physical health, such as propensity for heart disease or cancer, black seniors fare worse than whites due to lifetimes of exposure to stressors such as economic hardships and racial discrimination and diminished access to health care. In terms of mental health, Carr finds that older women are at higher risk of depression and anxiety than men, yet older men are especially vulnerable to suicide, a result of complex factors including the rigid masculinity expectations placed on this generation of men. Carr finds that older adults’ physical and mental health are also closely associated with their social networks and the neighborhoods in which they live. Even though strong relationships with spouses, families, and friends can moderate some of the health declines associated with aging, women—and especially women of color—are more likely than men to live alone and often cannot afford home health care services, a combination that can be isolating and even fatal. Finally, social inequalities affect the process of dying itself, with white and affluent seniors in a better position to convey their end-of-life preferences and use hospice or palliative care than their disadvantaged peers.
Carr cautions that rising economic inequality, the lingering impact of the Great Recession, and escalating rates of obesity and opioid addiction, among other factors, may contribute to even greater disparities between the haves and the have-nots in future cohorts of older adults. She concludes that policies, such as income supplements for the poorest older adults, expanded paid family leave, and universal health care could ameliorate or even reverse some disparities.
A comprehensive analysis of the causes and consequences of later-life inequalities, Golden Years? demonstrates the importance of increased awareness, strong public initiatives, and creative community-based programs in ensuring that all Americans have an opportunity to age well.
Strict decrees on the observance of death were part of the myriad laws enacted under the Tokugawa shogunate to control nearly every aspect of Japanese life. Hirai explores how this class of legislation played an integrative part in Japanese society by codifying religious beliefs and customs the Japanese people had cherished for generations.
For many of us, one of the most important ways of coping with the death of a close relative is talking about them, telling all who will listen what they meant to us. Yet the Gypsies of central France, the Manuš, not only do not speak of their dead, they burn or discard the deceased's belongings, refrain from eating the dead person's favorite foods, and avoid camping in the place where they died.
In Gypsy World, Patrick Williams argues that these customs are at the center of how Manuš see the world and their place in it. The Manuš inhabit a world created by the "Gadzos" (non-Gypsies), who frequently limit or even prohibit Manuš movements within it. To claim this world for themselves, the Manuš employ a principle of cosmological subtraction: just as the dead seem to be absent from Manuš society, argues Williams, so too do the Manuš absent themselves from Gadzo society—and in so doing they assert and preserve their own separate culture and identity.
Anyone interested in Gypsies, death rituals, or the formation of culture will enjoy this fascinating and sensitive ethnography.
Ghosts and other supernatural phenomena are widely represented throughout modern culture. They can be found in any number of entertainment, commercial, and other contexts, but popular media or commodified representations of ghosts can be quite different from the beliefs people hold about them, based on tradition or direct experience. Personal belief and cultural tradition on the one hand, and popular and commercial representation on the other, nevertheless continually feed each other. They frequently share space in how people think about the supernatural.
In Haunting Experiences, three well-known folklorists seek to broaden the discussion of ghost lore by examining it from a variety of angles in various modern contexts. Diane E. Goldstein, Sylvia Ann Grider, and Jeannie Banks Thomas take ghosts seriously, as they draw on contemporary scholarship that emphasizes both the basis of belief in experience (rather than mere fantasy) and the usefulness of ghost stories. They look closely at the narrative role of such lore in matters such as socialization and gender. And they unravel the complex mix of mass media, commodification, and popular culture that today puts old spirits into new contexts.
As we live longer and die slower and differently than our ancestors, we have come to rely more and more on end-of-life caregivers. These workers navigate a changing landscape of old age and death that many of us have little preparation to encounter. How We Die Now is an absorbing and sensitive investigation of end-of-life issues from the perspectives of patients, relatives, medical professionals, and support staff.
Karla Erickson immersed herself in the daily life of workers and elders in a Midwestern community for over two years to explore important questions around the theme of “how we die now.” She moves readers through and beyond the many fears that attend the social condition of old age and reveals the pleasures of living longer and the costs of slower, sometimes senseless ways of dying.
For all of us who are grappling with the “elder boom,” How We Die Now offers new ways of thinking about our longer lives.
More than any other altruistic gesture, blood and organ donation exemplifies the true spirit of self-sacrifice. Donors literally give of themselves for no reward so that the life of an individual—often anonymous—may be spared. But as the demand for blood and organs has grown, the value of a system that depends solely on gifts has been called into question, and the possibility has surfaced that donors might be supplemented or replaced by paid suppliers.
Last Best Gifts offers a fresh perspective on this ethical dilemma by examining the social organization of blood and organ donation in Europe and the United States. Gifts of blood and organs are not given everywhere in the same way or to the same extent—contrasts that allow Kieran Healy to uncover the pivotal role that institutions play in fashioning the contexts for donations. Procurement organizations, he shows, sustain altruism by providing opportunities to give and by producing public accounts of what giving means. In the end, Healy suggests, successful systems rest on the fairness of the exchange, rather than the purity of a donor’s altruism or the size of a financial incentive.
Based on years of fieldwork in both rural and urban Greece, The Last Word explores women's cultural resistance as they weave together diverse social practices: improvised antiphonic laments, divinatory dreaming, the care and tending of olive trees and the dead, and the inscription of emotions and the senses on a landscape of persons, things, and places. These practices compose the empowering poetics of the cultural periphery. C. Nadia Seremetakis liberates the analysis of gender from reductive binary models and pioneers the alternative perspective of self-reflexive "native anthropology" in European ethnography.
This special issue of SAQ commemorates and interrogates—with varying measures of appreciation and critique—the late work of the philosopher Jacques Derrida. Resisting simple memorialization of Derrida since his death in 2004, this collection contends that the late work of this prolific theorist remains to be better understood. The contributors explore the peculiar intensity—a combined sense of both patience and urgency—that characterizes Derrida’s late writing, suggestive, among other things, of his preoccupation with mortality, of time running out, and of so many pressing things to be done.
The essays address a wide array of Derrida’s concerns: human rights, justice, religion, the performative, “the gift of death,” mourning, and sovereignty. They often put Derrida’s texts in conjunction with the works of others—Wordsworth, Agamben, Schelling, and Benjamin, to name a few—that resonate with and on occasion resist Derrida’s own thinking and writing. One essay offers a reading of Wordsworth’s elegy “Distressful gift!” as a dialogue with questions posed by Derrida, using as its frame the kind of nonnormative mourning that Derrida advocated, together with a haunting analysis of the character of survival. Other essays look at Derrida’s theory of performativity as advanced in his late works, continuing his emphasis on the power of language, and in general they emulate his vigilance in attending to force and violence everywhere.
Contributors. Ian Balfour, David L. Clark, Mary Jacobus, David E. Johnson, David Lloyd, J. Hillis Miller, Marc Redfield, Rei Terada, Elisabeth Weber
It doesn’t take a trip to the doctor to know that the bond between physicians and patients isn’t what it used to be. Specialization, rising costs, managed care, the insurance industry, the shadow of litigation—so many factors have changed what was once a traditional relationship grounded in respect and caring.
In light of the altered climate in health care, this thoughtful book deals with the way that today’s doctors and patients view themselves and one another. Allen Weisse has observed the changing medical scene during half a century of treating patients and training future physicians, and he writes frankly here about how doctors and patients have come to deal with illness in the twenty-first century.
Weisse first recalls his own brush with death as a young man diagnosed with testicular cancer—a time when one thinks of God and Death and little else. He then shares true stories of how different people have dealt with cancer, heart disease, stroke, infectious disease, AIDS, and other dire diagnoses—narratives enhanced by professional savvy and enriched by the kind of empathy that the survivor of such a calamity can provide.
Drawing from a storehouse of experiences shared by colleagues, patients, and friends, Weisse writes with passion, conviction, and clarity to encourage a renewal of the openness and trust that seem to be lacking in today’s doctor-patient relationships. These are accounts both uplifting and disturbing—some sad, others tinged with humor—intended to make doctors and patients alike come to a fuller realization that we are all together in this delicate but crucial business of staying alive.
While not quite foreseeing a return to the Norman Rockwell image of the family physician, Weisse urges the kind of care and compassion that patients often feel is lacking from their doctors, and he reassures victims of seemingly hopeless conditions that, despite the obstacles they often face, there are still health care professionals who truly have their patients’ welfare foremost in mind. Lessons in Mortality is just what the doctor ordered for a health care system in crisis: an honest look at the medical profession that encourages greater understanding on the part of both physicians and patients, reminding us that what we most need is one another.
An ethnographic exploration of technoscientific immortality
Immortality has long been considered the domain of religion. But immortality projects have gained increasing legitimacy and power in the world of science and technology. With recent rapid advances in biology, nanotechnology, and artificial intelligence, secular immortalists hope for and work toward a future without death.
On Not Dying is an anthropological, historical, and philosophical exploration of immortality as a secular and scientific category. Based on an ethnography of immortalist communities—those who believe humans can extend their personal existence indefinitely through technological means—and an examination of other institutions involved at the end of life, Abou Farman argues that secular immortalism is an important site to explore the tensions inherent in secularism: how to accept death but extend life; knowing the future is open but your future is finite; that life has meaning but the universe is meaningless. As secularism denies a soul, an afterlife, and a cosmic purpose, conflicts arise around the relationship of mind and body, individual finitude and the infinity of time and the cosmos, and the purpose of life. Immortalism today, Farman argues, is shaped by these historical and culturally situated tensions. Immortalist projects go beyond extending life, confronting dualism and cosmic alienation by imagining (and producing) informatic selves separate from the biological body but connected to a cosmic unfolding.
On Not Dying interrogates the social implications of technoscientific immortalism and raises important political questions. Whose life will be extended? Will these technologies be available to all, or will they reproduce racial and geopolitical hierarchies? As human life on earth is threatened in the Anthropocene, why should life be extended, and what will that prolonged existence look like?
Sabarl island—created, in myth, from the bones of a serpent—is a coral atoll in the Louisiade archipelago of Papua New Guinea. The Sabarl speak of themselves as true "islanders": persons separated from the means of both physical and social survival. The Sabarl struggle for continuity—of the physical and social person and of social relations, of cultureal values, of paternal influence in a matrilineal society—is the subject of Debbora Battaglia's sensitive ethnography of loss and reconstruction: the first major work on cultural responses to mortality in the southern Massim culture area and an important contribution to studies of personhood in Melanesia.
The creative focus of Sabarl cultural life is a series of mortuary feasts and rituals known as segaiya. In assembling and disassembling commemorative food and objects in segaiya exchanges, Sabarl also assemble and disassemble the critical social relations such objects stand for. These commemorative acts create a collective memory yet also a collective experience of forgetting social bonds that are of no future use to the living. Sabarl anticipate this disaggregation in patterns of everyday life, which reveal the importance of categorical distinctions mapped in beliefs about the physical and metaphysical person.
Using remembrance and forgetting as an analytic lens, Battaglia is able to ask questions critical to understanding Melanesian social process. One of the "new ethnographies" addressing the limits of ethnographic representation and the fragmented nature of knowledge from an indigenous perspective, her finely wrought study explores the dynamics of cultural practices in which decontruction is integral to construction, allowing a new perspective on the ephermeral nature of sociality in Melanesia and new insight into the efficacy of cultural images more generally.
The contributors to Passages and Afterworlds explore death and its rituals across the Caribbean, drawing on ethnographic theories shaped by a deep understanding of the region's long history of violent encounters, exploitation, and cultural diversity. Examining the relationship between living bodies and the spirits of the dead, the contributors investigate the changes in cosmologies and rituals in the cultural sphere of death in relation to political developments, state violence, legislation, policing, and identity politics. Contributors address topics that range from the ever-evolving role of divinized spirits in Haiti and the contemporary mortuary practice of Indo-Trinidadians to funerary ceremonies in rural Jamaica and ancestor cults in Maroon culture in Suriname. Questions of alterity, difference, and hierarchy underlie these discussions of how racial, cultural, and class differences have been deployed in ritual practice and how such rituals have been governed in the colonial and postcolonial Caribbean.
Contributors. Donald Cosentino, Maarit Forde, Yanique Hume, Paul Christopher Johnson, Aisha Khan, Keith E. McNeal, George Mentore, Richard Price, Karen Richman, Ineke (Wilhelmina) van Wetering, Bonno (H.U.E.) Thoden van Velzen
Passed On is a portrait of death and dying in twentieth-century African America. Through poignant reflection and thorough investigation of the myths, rituals, economics, and politics of African American mourning and burial practices, Karla FC Holloway finds that ways of dying are just as much a part of black identity as ways of living. Gracefully interweaving interviews, archival research, and analyses of literature, film, and music, Holloway shows how the vulnerability of African Americans to untimely death is inextricably linked to how black culture represents itself and is represented. With a focus on the “death-care” industry—black funeral homes and morticians, the history of the profession and its practices—Holloway examines all facets of the burial business, from physicians, hospital chaplains, and hospice administrators, to embalming- chemical salesmen, casket makers, and funeral directors, to grieving relatives. She uses narrative, photographs, and images to summon a painful history of lynchings, white rage and riot, medical malpractice and neglect, executions, and neighborhood violence. Specialized caskets sold to African Americans, formal burial photos of infants, and deathbed stories, unveil a glimpse of the graveyards and burial sites of African America, along with burial rituals and funeral ceremonies. Revealing both unexpected humor and anticipated tragedy, Holloway tells a story of the experiences of black folk in the funeral profession and its clientele. She also reluctantly shares the story of her son and the way his death moved her research from page to person. In the conclusion, which follows a sermon delivered by Maurice O. Wallace at the funeral for the author’s son, Bem, Holloway strives to commemorate—through observation, ceremony, and the calling of others to remembrance and celebration.
Hospices have played a critical role in transforming ideas about death and dying. Viewing death as a natural event, hospices seek to enable people approaching mortality to live as fully and painlessly as possible. Award-winning medical historian Emily K. Abel provides insight into several important issues surrounding the growth of hospice care. Using a unique set of records, Prelude to Hospice expands our understanding of the history of U.S. hospices. Compiled largely by Florence Wald, the founder of the first U.S. hospice, the records provide a detailed account of her experiences studying and caring for dying people and their families in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Although Wald never published a report of her findings, she often presented her material informally. Like many others seeking to found new institutions, she believed she could garner support only by demonstrating that her facility would be superior in every respect to what currently existed. As a result, she generated inflated expectations about what a hospice could accomplish. Wald’s records enable us to glimpse the complexities of the work of tending to dying people.
Raising the Dead is a groundbreaking, interdisciplinary exploration of death’s relation to subjectivity in twentieth-century American literature and culture. Sharon Patricia Holland contends that black subjectivity in particular is connected intimately to death. For Holland, travelling through “the space of death” gives us, as cultural readers, a nuanced and appropriate metaphor for understanding what is at stake when bodies, discourses, and communities collide. Holland argues that the presence of blacks, Native Americans, women, queers, and other “minorities” in society is, like death, “almost unspeakable.” She gives voice to—or raises—the dead through her examination of works such as the movie Menace II Society, Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, Randall Kenan’s A Visitation of Spirits, and the work of the all-white, male, feminist hip-hop band Consolidated. In challenging established methods of literary investigation by putting often-disparate voices in dialogue with each other, Holland forges connections among African-American literature and culture, queer and feminist theory. Raising the Dead will be of interest to students and scholars of American culture, African-American literature, literary theory, gender studies, queer theory, and cultural studies.
Reexamines the nature of death and dying as seen from the physician's point of view. Unlike other treatments of the subject, this study is concerned not with what physician's should do for the critically ill, but with their actual behavior. Based on extensive interviews with physicians in several medical specialties, more than 3000 questionnaires completed by physicians in four specialties, and studies of the records of actual hospital patients, the book shows that while withdrawal of treatment in certain types of cases is widespread, euthanasia is rare.
The first case study of its kind, this book addresses a broad range of questions about the rationale for and application of judicial execution in Connecticut since the seventeenth century. In addition to identifying the 158 people who have been put to death for crimes during the state's history, Lawrence Goodheart analyzes their social status in terms of sex, race, class, religion, and ethnicity. He looks at the circumstances of the crimes, the weapons that were used, and the victims. He reconstructs the history of Connecticut's capital laws, its changing rituals of execution, and the growing debate over the legitimacy of the death penalty itself. Although the focus is on the criminal justice system, the ethical values of New England culture form the larger context. Goodheart shows how a steady diminution in types of capital crimes, including witchcraft and sexual crimes, culminated in an emphasis on proportionate punishment during the Enlightenment and eventually led to a preference for imprisonment for all capital crimes except first-degree murder. Goodheart concludes by considering why Connecticut, despite its many statutory restrictions on capital punishment and lengthy appeals process, has been the only state in New England to have executed anyone since 1960.
Like the pilot in W. B. Yeats's “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” each of us is challenged to “balance with this life, this death.” As we share a common fate, we also share loss and sorrow. At their most mournful, with praise and love and raw emotion, poets throughout time have put their grief to paper. The elegy and its inherent drama---the inevitable struggle between love and death---are showcased in The Sorrow Psalms, a collection of twentieth-century elegies edited by poet Lynn Strongin. Divided into five thematic sections, the elegies convey the impact of death and its aftermath; focus on the loss of family, lovers, and dear friends; contend with the loss of a child; deal with violent death; and seek to look beyond death to find some kind of resolution. The traditional stages of grieving---denial, anger, depression, and acceptance---are evident, either singly in the expression of one profound emotion or all at once, in these elegies. Strongin's introduction on the origins of the elegy and its evolution through the twentieth century explains what elegy has been and what it can be. “There is a river of sorrows that flows, which our creative spirits have mapped,” she writes. As they evoke and exalt the dead and give expression to the deepest emotions, the resonant elegies collected here offer comfort to those who personally or collectively grieve the passing of loved ones. Contributors includeJohn Berryman, Elizabeth Bishop, Lucille Clifton, Billy Collins, e. e. cummings, James Dickey, Donald Hall, Jane Kenyon, Denise Levertov, Sandra McPherson, Joyce Peseroff, Robert Peters, Stan Rice, Adrienne Rich, Carl Sandburg, Anne Sexton, Ruth Stone, Mark Strand, Dylan Thomas, William Carlos Williams, C. D. Wright
The Vaqueiros de Alzada, a cattle-herding people in the Asturian mountains of Spain, have one of the highest suicide rates in Europe—and an attitude toward death that gives this statistic unusual meaning. This World, Other Worlds considers death among the Vaqueiros as a central cultural fact which reveals local ideas about the origin and destiny of humans, the relations of humans and animals, the configuration of the universe, and the nature of society. Interested chiefly in the conceptual and meaningful aspects of death, María Cátedra focuses on the cultural resources with which the Vaqueiros confront their own mortality—how they experience death and what this reveals about the way they see this world and other worlds.
Applying sensitive ethnographic insight to a rich body of oral testimony, Cátedra discloses an unsuspected symbolic universe native to the Vaqueiros. Death is seen here in close, coherent relation to pain, age, and suffering; sickness and suicide, one must understand the cultural valuation of different ways of dying and the conditions under which suicides take place. To understand what it means to be a Vaqueiro is to understand how suicide can be perceived by a people as acceptable.
A groundbreaking work in European ethnography, This World, Other Worlds takes symbolic analysis to a new level. In its illumination of local conceptions of death, grace, and sainthood, the book also makes a substantial contribution to the anthropology of religion.
To Serve the Living
Suzanne E. Smith Harvard University Press, 2010 Library of Congress GT3203.S75 2010 | Dewey Decimal 363.7508996073
For African Americans, death was never simply the end of life, and funerals were not just places to mourn. In the "hush harbors" of the slave quarters, African Americans first used funerals to bury their dead and to plan a path to freedom. Similarly, throughout the long - and often violent - struggle for racial equality in the twentieth century, funeral directors aided the cause by honoring the dead while supporting the living. To Serve the Living offers a fascinating history of how African American funeral directors have been integral to the fight for freedom.
The human body is the locus of meaning, personhood, and our sense of the possibility of sanctity. The desecration of the human corpse is a matter of universal revulsion, taboo in virtually all human cultures. Not least for this reason, the unburied corpse quickly becomes a focal point of political salience, on the one hand seeming to express the contempt of state power toward the basic claims of human dignity—while on the other hand simultaneously bringing into question the very legitimacy of that power. In Unburied Bodies: Subversive Corpses and the Authority of the Dead, James Martel surveys the power of the body left unburied to motivate resistance, to bring forth a radically new form of agency, and to undercut the authority claims made by state power. Ranging across time and space from the battlefields of ancient Thebes to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and taking in perspectives from such writers as Sophocles, Machiavelli, Walter Benjamin, Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Judith Butler, Thomas Lacqueur, and Bonnie Honig, Martel asks why the presence of the abandoned corpse can be seen by both authorities and protesters as a source of power, and how those who have been abandoned or marginalized by structures of authority can find in a lifeless body fellow accomplices in their aspirations for dignity and humanity.
Assisted suicide remains one of the most emotionally charged and controversial topics—and the issue isn’t going away any time soon. As the baby boomer generation ages, many of us will watch as our parents—and ourselves—grow older, and wonder at the decisions that lie ahead.
Understanding Assisted Suicide provides both a fresh take on this important topic and the framework for intelligent participation in the discussion. Uniquely, the author frames the issue using his own experience watching both his parents die, which led him to ask fundamental questions about death, dying, religion, and the role of medicine and technology in alleviating human suffering.
In concerns about assisted suicide, each person’s “big picture” has largely been created out of picking and choosing from nine separate snapshot albums.
Understanding this offers a perspective for quickly determining the sources of another’s opinion on assisted suicide, as well as the issues they are not considering. Most importantly, Understanding Assisted Suicide offers a clear, easy-to-traverse landscape over which those who are sincerely looking for their own answers can navigate. The “nine-issue structure” allows both careful exploration of separate issues and a view of the full spectrum of ideas involved.
Once defiant of death—or even in denial—many American families and health care professionals are embracing the notion that a life consumed by suffering may not be worth living. Sociologist Roi Livne documents the rise and effectiveness of hospice and palliative care, and the growing acceptance that less treatment may be better near the end of life.
Soldier, hero, and politician, the Duke of Wellington is one of the best-known figures of nineteenth-century England. From his victory at Waterloo over Napoleon in 1815, he rose to become prime minister of his country. But Peter Sinnema finds equal fascination in Victorian England's response to the Duke's death.
The Wake of Wellington considers Wellington's spectacular funeral pageant in the fall of 1852—an unprecedented event that attracted one and a half million spectators to London—as a threshold event against which the life of the soldier-hero and High-Tory statesman could be re-viewed and represented.
Canvassing a profuse and dramatically proliferating Wellingtoniana, Sinnema examines the various assumptions behind, and implications of, the Times's celebrated claim that the Irish-born Wellington “was the very type and model of an Englishman.” The dead duke, as Sinnema demonstrates, was repeatedly caught up in interpretive practices that stressed the quasi-symbolic relations between hero and nation.
The Wake of Wellington provides a unique view of how in death Wellington and his career were promoted as the consummation of a national destiny intimately bound up with Englishness itself, and with what it meant to be English at midcentury.
Nearly 1,600 Americans who took part in the Vietnam War are still missing and presumed dead. Sarah Wagner tells the stories of those who mourn and continue to search for them. Today’s forensic science can identify remains from mere traces, raising expectations for repatriation and forcing a new reckoning with the toll of America’s most fraught war.
Many books discuss in great detail what happened during Civil War battles. This is one of the few that investigate what happened to the remains of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Where Valor Proudly Sleeps explores a battle’s immediate and long-term aftermath by focusing on Fredericksburg National Cemetery, one of the largest cemeteries created by the U.S. government after the Civil War. Pfanz shows how legislation created the National Cemetery System and describes how the Burial Corps identified, collected, and interred soldier remains as well as how veterans, their wives, and their children also came to rest in national cemeteries. By sharing the stories of the Fredericksburg National Cemetery, its workers, and those buried there, Pfanz explains how the cemetery evolved into its current form, a place of beauty and reflection.
The number of elderly and disabled adults who require assistance with day-to-day activities is expected to double over the next twenty-five years. As a result, direct care workers such as home care aides and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) will become essential to many more families. Yet these workers tend to be low-paid, poorly trained, and receive little respect. Is such a workforce capable of addressing the needs of our aging population? In Who Will Care for Us? economist Paul Osterman assesses the challenges facing the long-term care industry. He presents an innovative policy agenda that reconceives direct care workers’ work roles and would improve both the quality of their jobs and the quality of elder care.
Using national surveys, administrative data, and nearly 120 original interviews with workers, employers, advocates, and policymakers, Osterman finds that direct care workers are marginalized and often invisible in the health care system. While doctors and families alike agree that good home care aides and CNAs are crucial to the well-being of their patients, the workers report poverty-level wages, erratic schedules, exclusion from care teams, and frequent incidences of physical injury on the job. Direct care workers are also highly constrained by policies that specify what they are allowed to do on the job, and in some states are even prevented from simple tasks such as administering eye drops.
Osterman concludes that broadening the scope of care workers’ duties will simultaneously boost the quality of care for patients and lead to better jobs and higher wages. He proposes integrating home care aides and CNAs into larger medical teams and training them as “health coaches” who educate patients on concerns such as managing chronic conditions and transitioning out of hospitals. Osterman shows that restructuring direct care workers’ jobs, and providing the appropriate training, could lower health spending in the long term by reducing unnecessary emergency room and hospital visits, limiting the use of nursing homes, and lowering the rate of turnover among care workers.
As the Baby Boom generation ages, Who Will Care for Us? demonstrates the importance of restructuring the long-term care industry and establishing a new relationship between direct care workers, patients, and the medical system.
Becoming a widow is one of the most traumatic life events that a woman can experience. Yet, as this remarkable new collection reveals, each woman responds to that trauma differently. Here, forty-three widows tell their stories, in their own words.
Some were widowed young, while others were married for decades. Some cared for their late partners through long terminal illnesses, while others lost their partners suddenly. Some had male partners, while others had female partners. Yet each of these women faced the same basic dilemma: how to go on living when a part of you is gone.
Widows’ Words is arranged chronologically, starting with stories of women preparing for their partners’ deaths, followed by the experiences of recent widows still reeling from their fresh loss, and culminating in the accounts of women who lost their partners many years ago but still experience waves of grief. Their accounts deal honestly with feelings of pain, sorrow, and despair, and yet there are also powerful expressions of strength, hope, and even joy. Whether you are a widow yourself or have simply experienced loss, you will be sure to find something moving and profound in these diverse tales of mourning, remembrance, and resilience.