• Frequent examples of the personification of Death. Why is it personified in oral
o Makes our human minds understand this abstract idea more easily.
o Differences in literacy between social classes, personification makes it easier for
everyone to understand.
• Robert Kastenbaumwritten a lot about death and dying. Ideas found (From students):
o Death as a Macabre: decaying human, faint resemblance to a human form.
o Death as a gentle comforter-soothing image (possibly father time).
o Death as the gay deceiver: either deceiver, poised, elegant, tempting, stoic, worldly.
o Death as theAutomaton: may have some type of human form, no diabolical pleasure, but
no soothing qualities either.
• The pornography of Death by Geoffery Gorfer
o Famous social anthropologist
o Essay based on historical evidence.
o Death and sex in Victorian era vs. Mid 20 century.
o Shift: 19 century=death was common, people had a lot of contact at a young age.
Hands on contact. Ignoring social class.
o Modern day death: people isolated and around machines. Psychological needs of the
dying being ignored.
• Sociological approach for essays
o Sociological concepts: socialization, culture.
• Which do you fear the most: the process of death, or actually being dead.
o We see people go through the process of dying, but no one knows what happens after.
• When you are old, are you more afraid of your own death or your spouse’s death?
o Rather be the person going than the person left behind.
• “The Terror of Death”
o Author also wrote a book called “The Denial of Death”major argument is that our lives
are very much about denying death.
o Comes from Greek mythology. Lover of Eros.
o Eros was the goddess of, asked to make Zeus Tithonus immortal. Zeus grants her wish,
but he didn’t have immortal youth.
• Discussion question: If our genes could be altered to double our life expectancy (periods of age
would be proportionally longer), what would the consequences be? What would the possible
o Running out of resources.
o There would be less of an appreciation of life.
o Less urgency to get stuff done. 9/16
• Consequences of lengthening the life span of humans
o Impact that death has on society, and the impact that society has on death.
• Aubrey de Grey
o Believes we’re capable of living longer
o None of his research has shown anything in other organisms, let alone humans. How
credible is he?
• David Sinclair
o Focusing on a few gene sequences that can repair DNAfrom aging.
• Bubonic plague
o 1347-1351=first major episode of the plague to reach Europe
o Mortality rate extremely high, very few people had immortality to it
o 1/3 population of Europe died in a very short period of time.
o Pneumonic Plague had higher mortality rate, almost 100%
o 1491 by Charles Mannbook aboutAmericas with an emphasis up to the period when we
had first contact with Europeans.
Argument is that the first Europeans unintentionally brought diseases (i.e.
smallpox). Estimate is by 1600; about 80% of population inAmericas were dead
from these diseases.
Syphilis went the other way
o How did the plague reach Europe?
• Martin Luther 1483-1546
o Education on prevention
o Triage: some places where places are so bad it’s not effective to even help
o Ethical issues:
• Learning to fall
o “Life is not a problem to be solved”
o Embrace the mystery of life.
o Metaphor of the storm: “a feeling of delightful horror and delight tinged with terror”.
o Imagery of the tigers and the strawberry: death will be a part of our life, when it is a lot
of times we re-prioritize things in our life.
In the story the man knew that strawberry would be the last delicious thing he
would eat. So he enjoyed it
• Tuesday’s with Morrie
o Did Morrie “embrace the mystery”: he definitely lived in the present.
o Why was this book so successful?
Something someone who was dying could read without being depressed, death
isn’t so scary. • The Good Short Life
o Once the quality of life drops below a certain level, he doesn’t want to hang on.
• How to book on dying; the steps and how to go through it
• Criticism: many healthcare professionals go through these steps much too literally and rigidly.
o Also puts pressure on the people dying so that you “have to do it right”.
o Having a stage theory, there’s a tendency to put the dying person in one of these stages.
Using labels and treating everyone in that label the same. It’s better to treat each
o Many people don’t go through a fixed set of stages, or maybe even none at all.
• Coping mechanisms: anguish, surrender, envy.
• Being in one of these stages of dying cannot be studied scientifically.
• We don’t know the % of her patients that went through all 5 of the phases she writes aboutits
hard to replicate her work.
• Experiencing Dying in Various Institutional Settings
o Doctors and Nurses
Evidence suggesting that doctors tend to spend less time with patients who are
classified as “dying”
Why: they want to devote more time to patients that may be able to survive;
could be a “failure”; an issue of attachment, emotions play a role;
***socialization: success/role for doctors is defined as “curing” a patient;
economic point of view: you don’t want doctors doing “social work”, save
o Dying in hospitals
Modern dying vs. Pre-modern dying
• Modern: emphasis on issue of technology and bureaucracy
o Machines that the person interacts with when they’re dying and
treatments that are now available.
o Dying in a hospital vs dying at home. Places like hospitals are
going to have rules about visiting, pet policies, paperwork, records
must be kept,
• Pre-modern: religious rituals,
o Erving Goffman, “Total Institution”
Research based on patients in mental hospitals, prisoners in prison, and soldiers
in basic training.
When you look at their lives, each one of them is an example of a “Total
Alot of regimentation; when you wake up, go to sleep, when you eat, shower
Loss of autonomy: control over very intimate aspects of everyday life (when you
take a bath).
Lack of privacy
Loss of identity Impersonal, treated like a number
Become dependent, become incapable of taking care of yourself.
• Dying in a Total Institution: The Case of Death in Prison
o More people are serving longer terms, there are a greater number of older people living
o Legalism has increased; there’s no parole option anymore.
o Why: want to keep same punishments across the board, crimes are not individualized.
o AIDS plays a larger role in dying in prison.
o Older people in jail, more people are going to be dying of effects of old age.
o Guards as “family”: especially as inmates who don’t have a family, guards take that role.
• Death, Uses of a corpse, and Social Worth (David Sudnow)
o Can get permission to go into a hospital and simply observe; look for themes.
One of his themes: efficiency: must get permission to do an autopsy from the
relatives. Usually, in a middle class hospital you ask after the person is dead. In
this hospital from the article, they ask when the person is dying because it’s more
efficient (hard to track down family members).
Some places in the hospital had more empty morgue trays, places where deaths
are more frequent.
o Strange things done in the name of efficiency:
If a person was near death, the nursing staff got good at judging if people were
close to death. If so, they would go in and close the persons eyelids. Why? The
rigamortus sets in quickly and it becomes harder and longer to close them when
preparing the dead body.
Nighttime, no visitors coming in: start to wrap the body before the person is
o Theme: things around medical training, practicing on a corpse.
o Theme: wanting to avoid doing “dirty work”
Put people on stretchers, nowhere to store them in the Emergency Room. They
would sometimes put the person in another ward, in the utility closet because
they weren’t going to clean the room after and they wouldn’t make it through the
Changing shifts: someone had been dead for a few hours, and the night shift
people didn’t “notice it”. The next shift must take care of the body.
o Theme: desensitization
Can’t be sensitive to death because you’ll be seeing it a lot.
Death that took place in the emergency room, person who died was the
receptionist (she was shot).
o Concept of social death: a person being treated as if they’re dead, when they are still
I.e. a person who came in for surgery for a duodenal ulcer. He recovered, and
when he went home he found that all his clothes had been removed from his
home. His wife had left him, and he had a heart attack 2 weeks later. Food taboos (looking at anthropological evidence)
• Death of Ivan Ilich vs Tuesday’s with Morrie
o Both are regular people who have a terminal illness.
o Sociological analysis of Ivan Ilich:
The role of being a judge impacted his view of death.
• Death: The Trip of a Lifetime
• Letting go:
o The art of dying
o Rehearsing and staging practice funerals. People thought it would make them less
scared for the real thing.
o Funeral practices reflect a culture’s values.
Drive through in America
Technology in Japan
o Getting rid of the body
Embalming: step towards the viewing process,
Viewing the body is important: part of the grieving process can be accomplished
through the closure one gets from seeing the body.
Removing bodily fluids and preserving the body.
o Belief that women are more caring, some cultures are expected to take care of the
o Telling the story of the dead’s life.
• The role of hospice in regards to the dying
o The focus is not on healing, but to make life comfortable
o This is also less expensive because machine’s aren’t necessary
o Hospice is like a growing organism; it’s not the same thing as the 80s.
• What is a hospice?
o References to medieval monasteries who are poor and disabled, unable to take care of
o The word hospice comes from the Latin word “hospes” which means “hosting a guest or
o Using the term Hospice began in France as places strictly for the dying
o Cocktails: mixture of products people were given to control the pain
o Hospice facilitates the acceptance of death rather than hopes of getting better
• The American Way of Death by Jessica Mitford
o High cost of funerals: this industry needed to be regulated. Certain rules were passed to
regulate the industry, and this was successful and brought many changes.
I.e. prior to these rules, if you wanted to get a price you could call around to
different funeral homes and pick based on prices. They used to not discuss prices
over the phone, and you had to make an appointment to come in person. Acommon practice in funeral homes were funeral packages for different prices.
You were paying for the casket and other things that went along with them. One
of the changes was that you couldn’t make people buy things in packages.
o Caskets make death less grotesque
o Walt Disney’s cemetery romanticizes the idea of death. You don’t see the idea of death
Youth is represented.
o Mausoleum: could be a building used by a family for generations. Could also be crypts
for hundreds of people on one mausoleum
Advantages: some people don’t want to be buried in the ground, there’s no
upkeep of a grave site
o Crypt: a vault for burial. Often found in churches.
In the middle ages, one of the things they did was move cemeteries from outside
of town, to into town around Churches. Hundreds of people were put into one
single grave. When they rotted away the bones were brought to an ossuary
(building for bones). Wealthier, more important people were buried inside the
church or in a crypt.
• Memorial society movement: people would get together, pay a small fee, and that organization
would make a deal with local funeral directors to produce funerals for a very inexpensive cost.
During a time where people couldn’t afford a lot.
• History of embalmment: heard about it originally with the Egyptian practices
o Why were they so interested in embalmment:
• Father of modern embalming: Leonardo da Vinci
• The civil war played a large role in embalmment: there was a desire to get bodies back to their
• Lincoln was embalmed: it gave status to the idea of embalming and it therefore became more
o In 1865
• Mummification vs. embalming
o Mummification=subcategory of embalming. Mummification is designed to last for
decades. Embalming, within a few weeks the body decomposes after a few weeks.
• You can still visit Lenon and Mao
o Communist countries often embalm; these are atheist countries, they’re playing the role
of saints or gods.
• Sociological interpretation of embalming:
• Death Be Not Strange by Peter A. Metcalf
o Death in an anthropological view
o Maybe it’s not them that are strange, it’s our practices
o Endocanibalism; eating your own
• How Different Religions Pay Their Final Respects by William J. Whalen
o India: reliance on vultures to get rid of their dead. Disruptances in the food chain are
having negative effects in the vulture population. o Suttee:
• Bereavement, Grief and Mourning
o Bereavement: an event; losing a spouse, child, loved one etc…
Status of being a bereaved person; has effect on your social network.
We denote losses with special words; losing your uncle or grandfather there’s no
“special word”. (i.e. widow, orphan)
What defines being an orphan?
o How do we treat the bereaved in our society vs other societies?
In Victorian England; when an uncle or aunt dies you’re in mourning for 3
months (influences dress, sending letters, jewelry). Grandparents, mourning for
9 months. Parents, spouse, child, a year long mourning period.
o Amount of grief will vary from one person to the other. What experiences shape how
intense the grief is?
Suddenness of the death
Relationship between the individuals. (Sibling vs. a cousin)
If the relationship is socially acceptable
How your relationship was.
Degree of psychological dependence on the person.
Extent to which your identity is linked to that person.
• Non-working spouses who gets their identity from the job of their spouse.
• Awife who’s husband dies and has a prominent job in the community.
o Economic dependence
Many times wives are left in poverty because there’s little to no income.
o Somatic symptoms of acute grief (physical aspects of grieving):
Tightness in the throat
Shortness of breath
An empty feeling in the abdomen
Extreme weakness, lack of muscular power
o Psychological symptoms of acute grief:
Abnormal for several months later, they are there right away though:
• Heightened irritability and hostility
• Heightened perceptual and emotional sensitivity (quick to overreact)
• Anger (for the other person “leaving” you)guilt because of these
o Disenfranchised grief
• Ring around the Rosie as a child: o Ring around the Rosie: the bubonic plague comes with sores on your body; a rose circle
of some sort.
o Apocket full of posies: posies are flowers; people believed that if they carried posies in
their pockets it would cover the smell of the decaying bodies all around them; belief that
diseases were carried by bad smells; some people were putting things around themselves
that smelled bad so people would stay away from them, they might not be infected;
essentially many different interpretations.
o Ashes to ashes: the bodies of the dead were burned. The gravediggers would come and
get the plague themselves; so to get rid of bodies cremation began. The Church didn’t
generally approve cremation but this was really their only choice of disposing of bodies.
Some people would argue that the term “bonfire” came from “bone fire” during this era.
We’re not sure if this is true or not.
• Where did this rhyme come from?
o It might be from the plague of 1347, but it’s more likely that it’s the great plague of
London in 1665. This is the first time when there’s explicit reference to “ring around the
o Every few decades, the plague came back.
• Sociological look at this nursery rhyme
o Why have parents been teaching this song to their children?
o It could be part of the socialization about death. As a child, you have to get used to this.
Your siblings may die, your parents may die, you must be ready for this.
o Is this directed towards the kids that are playing this? Or the parents who are teaching it
to them? Or both?
• Humpty dumpty: could be socialization about death (couldn’t put him back together)
• Tag: possibility of an interpretation, when you get caught you’re out of the game. When
someone with the plague touches you, you’re “out”.
• Grimm Fairy Tales: Hansel and Gretel, witch who tries to put children in an oven. Exposing
young children to these ideas.
o All are examples about socialization about death.
• *Rockaby baby
• Children’s changing/development of conceptions of death
o More mature understanding of death: death is irreversible, an end of all physiological
o When does a child first become aware of the concept of death?
Certain psychologists argue that it comes very young
Ada Maurer: psychologist who argues that the peekaboo game with an infant is
being exposed to the idea of existence and non-existence.
Maria Nagg: much of her work prior to WWII, outlines 3 stages in the
development in a child’s understanding of death
• Ages 3-5: children observed did not recognize death as being final. It
was viewed as something like sleep or being on a long trip. Major fears
about death; separation from those that are dead or alive (if the child is
the one dying).
• Ages 5-9: tendency to personify death; sometimes it was an angel, a
frightening clown, o Harlicain: stories of it going back to 1500s, viewed as a helper of
the devil, roamed the land with a group of demons who would
round up the damned souls and take them to hell.
Depicted in different ways: dressed in a very flashy way,
like a medieval court jester; sometimes in a dark form, like
an actual demon
o Grim reaper type of character, making his rounds at night.
o Children in this stage tend to recognize that death is final, but it
can also be avoided.
“Don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mother’s
o Movie where man is playing chess with “death”he can stay alive
as long as he beats death in the game. Eventually death
winsdeath can be put off but it can’t be avoided.
o By age 9, children have a more matured concept of death.
Does a belief in an afterlife have to do with a mature
conception of death
• Blue Bond-Langner a