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Title: The human encounter with death : an anthropological approach
Author: Hockey, J.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3579 5948
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 1986
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The thesis explores the quality of death-related experience, that is the semantic resonance of acts, events and utterances taking place in time and space framed predominantly by death. It draws on an anthropological/hermeneutic understanding that meaning arises out of the relationship between an act/event/utterance and its cultural and social setting. The source selected is Ricoeur's work on the relationship between text and context. Accordingly, the historical background to the contemporary Western encounter with death is explored. An aspect of the scientific revolution of the sixteenth century is the emergence of a controlling rather than interpretive orientation towards the natural world. Medicine's role in controlling death has been important in the creation of the present boundary between life and death. The quality of contemporary death-related experience is understood within this context. The three areas selected for study through participant observation are (1) Hospice death (2) ageing in residential care (3) bereavement. These contexts reveal the limits of a medical model of the relationship between life and death. The slow deterioration of old age is shown to present problematic ambiguities within a culture committed to maintaining a rigid life/death boundary. Similarly the death of a partner can raise difficulties for bereaved individuals unable to make a clear separation between a shared past and a solitary present. Hospice care and bereavement counselling are contemporary responses to a divisive and de-humanising life/death boundary. Through bereavement counselling the continuum of a past shared life, a current loss, and an independent future life can be reintegrated. Through Hospice care, dying can be openly acknowledged and managed, so effecting the social, emotional and spiritual reintegration of dying individuals and their survivors. Together these contexts reveal the ways in which an awareness of death may be culturally and socially deflected - or directed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Anthropology