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Title: Relatedness, loneliness and longing in Qeqertaq, Greenland
Author: Flora, J. K.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This is an ethnographic study of the concept of suicide in Qeqertaq, a small settlement in northwest Greenland. Research into suicide is often driven by a quest for identifying causalities. However, this study suggests it is by taking a broader view that a very different and local causality of suicide emerges. This thesis suggests that suicide may be understood as an extreme way of recreating relatedness. Part I: Relatedness: Having been bestowed the names of recently deceased relatives upon birth each person in Qeqertaq is a ‘returned person’. Names are vehicles for relatedness and personhood, which achieve their full potential, through repeated acts and processes of re-invoking relatedness. Uttering names and kinship terminologies in particular ways, sharing and eating particular foods and visiting particular places in the landscape are ways of re-invoking relatedness. This continuum, I suggest, feeds into a particular form of morality of circumventing feelings of longing, homesickness, bereavement and loneliness. Part II: Loneliness: Although people without relatives are virtually non-existent, they recognise loneliness as a predicament that can defeat anyone if relatedness is not re-invoked. Local concepts and feelings of longing and homesickness are instrumental in maintaining both relatedness as well as the aversion to loneliness and thus bring relatedness and loneliness together in such a way that the re-invocation of one becomes a vehicle for the continued re-invocation of the other. Both relatedness and loneliness are tied up with expectations and disappointments in relatedness and I argue that their interplay is part of a broader social pattern of ‘turning towards’ and ‘turning away’ of which the disappointed characters of the suicide and the dangerous ghost-like figure of qivittoq are parts. By comparing suicide and qivittoq as two extraordinary characters that ‘turn away’ and cross a threshold into loneliness, I suggest that their differences rest on the degree of irreversibility in which they ‘turn away’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available