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Title: The moral order of suicide : family talk about bereavement
Author: Pietilä, Minna Taija Maaria
ISNI:       0000 0001 3490 3599
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths, University of London
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2001
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I examined here how parents and children (N=16) constructed moral order from their family member's suicide and their own bereavement in their interview talk. I employed a version of membership categorisation device (MCD) analysis to analyse qualitative data in which the interviewees interpreted notions of 'the family', 'suicide' and 'bereavement' by categorising their rights and obligations in the situation. Phenomena and talk always occur in a historical and cultural context, and people use socially sensible explanatory frameworks also to deal with their own life events. The method of MCD examines the way in which people make sense of phenomena by attaching to categories assumptions about their characteristics. This produces descriptions of things that 'go together well', as well as of those which do not. When combined into larger collections (MCDs), these categorisations become such culturally and historically comprehensible social constructions as 'the Western nuclear family'. In my data, parents and children analysed their (respective) family member's suicide and their own bereavement by talking about, for example, their feelings of 'guilt' and 'abandonment'. In doing this, besides referring to their psychological 'inner emotional experiences', they created moral orders by allocating responsibilities and rights to the different parties involved. The interviewees constructed concepts of 'the family', 'suicide' and 'bereavement' which implied a contradiction between the highly idealised Western image of a 'caring and sharing' family unit and the separate, self-sufficient individual, describing their own family's efforts and inability to understand and help each other. From this tension between ideals and reality in the dominant moral Western family discourse emerged the interviewees' production of moral adequacy in their suicide bereavement talk. The study offers useful insights to sociological research concerning people's 'lived experience', as well as to bereavement study and work where their experiences are often understood exclusively as individuals' inner sensations.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral