Making Sense of Family Deaths in Urban Senegal: Diversities, Contexts, and Comparisons

McCarthy, Jane Ribbens; Evans, Ruth; Bowlby, Sophie and Wouango, Joséphine (2018). Making Sense of Family Deaths in Urban Senegal: Diversities, Contexts, and Comparisons. OMEGA - Journal of Death and Dying (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0030222818805351

Abstract

Despite calls for cross-cultural research, Minority world perspectives still dominate death and bereavement studies, emphasizing individualized emotions and neglecting contextual diversities. In research concerned with contemporary African societies, on the other hand, death and loss are generally subsumed within concerns about AIDS or poverty, with little attention paid to the emotional and personal significance of a death. Here, we draw on interactionist sociology to present major themes from a qualitative study of family deaths in urban Senegal, theoretically framed through the duality of meanings-in-context. Such themes included family and community as support and motivation; religious beliefs and practices as frameworks for solace and (regulatory) meaning; and material circumstances as these are intrinsically bound up with emotions. Although we identify the experience of (embodied, emotional) pain as a common response across Minority and Majority worlds, we also explore significant divergencies, varying according to localized contexts and broader power dynamics.

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