Anthropology of the Memorial: Observations and Reflections on American Cultural Rituals Associated with Death

Michael Hemmingson

Abstract


This paper is a meditation on contemporary rituals in the United States associated with death—in this case, the memorial. The essay addresses David R. MAINES' advocacy of using narrative to address a social (and anthropological) event. There are social expectations at memorials, rituals of talking good about the deceased, rituals of grief. Friends and family come together to communicate about the deceased. Strangers connect by their mutual connection to the dead. Every culture has its own set of rituals and rules when it comes to honoring and admiring the dead; this one is American. From an autoethnographical approach, the author reveals his own inner ritual, a personal memory, of a friend and former lover who has passed. The author discusses the processes of recording dialogue and experience via memory, and the criteria for quality in this autoethnography.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs090360

Keywords


autoethnography; death; memorial; narrative; ritual

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