Differentiation in the social evaluation of work : an investigation of stigmatizing characteristics of death-related occupations
At the theoretical level, the thesis seeks to confirm the significance of stigma and to analyse its social composition, classifiability and influence on certain occupational groups, an earlier research topic of the author, focussed here on death work. It begins with a critical review of recent theorists' attempts to grapple with the applications to and implications for socially discredited groups and practitioners. A synthesized model is then presented to reflect the crucial variables in stigmatization. The occupational stigma concept as such, whilst the subject of a deeper theoretical examination in relation to such phenomena as status, prestige, public image and self-perception of incumbents exposed to it, must also be capable of empirical verification. This is provided by an examination of the changing social structure of the 'death industry'. Key ethnographic elements associated with the work of funeral directors, embalmers and gravediggers derived from fieldwork material are elaborated to establish attempts to enhance prestige and counter occupational stigma. Further chapters focus particularly on forensic pathologists as professional doctors in death work, made most acutely aware of their marginality by medical colleagues' denial that they are healers. The reasons for the demise of the forensic pathology profession are critically examined with regard to how incumbents perceive their work and their propensity to manage stress. Stigma-alleviating factors are identified which attach themselves also to a recognised profession as distinct from other death occupations. The thesis concludes by providing the wider cultural and social policy context for the changes that have occurred within the death industry and by offering a reassessment of the concept of stigma in the light of the empirical findings. The five-part appendix includes matters methodological, a discussion of stigma origins, cases studies, some detailed responses from the forensic pathologists and ideas for measuring stigma.