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

  • Michael Hemmingson University of California
Keywords: autoethnography, death, memorial, narrative, ritual


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


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Author Biography

Michael Hemmingson, University of California
Michael HEMMINGSON's work has appeared in Life Writing, Creative Approaches to Research, Journal of Sex Research, Journal for the Study of Sports and Athletes in Education, Fourth Genre, and Qualitative Research Journal. Some of his books include Zona Norte (Cambridge Scholars, 2008), Autoethnographies: Sex and Death and Symbolic Interaction in the Eighth Moment of Qualitative Inquiry (Borgo Press, 2009), and The Anthropology of Pornography (SUNY Press, 2010). He is currently editing an anthology, First Person Sociology: Toward Autoethnography and the Ethnographic "I" in Current Qualitative Research (due out in 2010 from McFarland). In FQS, Michael HEMMINGSON has written a review to Pursuing Hollywood: Seduction, Obsession, Dread (by Nathaniel KOHN 2006,
How to Cite
Hemmingson, M. (2009). Anthropology of the Memorial: Observations and Reflections on American Cultural Rituals Associated with Death. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(3).
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