Researching the End of Life: Reflections on Qualitative Sociology of Death, Dying, and Bereavement

  • Ekkehard Coenen Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
  • Matthias Meitzler Universität Passau
Keywords: dying, death, grief and mourning, qualitative social research, reflection of methods, field access, research ethics, subjectivity, sociology of death, dying, and bereavement

Abstract

In this article, we dedicate ourselves to the peculiarities of qualitative sociology of death, dying, and bereavement. While the sociology of death, dying, and bereavement has been increasingly opened to qualitative methods throughout its history, there is a lack of a reflection on the subsequent research process. We illustrate this lack and show to what extent the sociology of death, dying, and bereavement is a conglomerate of multiple approaches and issues. Following  from this, we present six basic assumptions that play a role in a qualitatively oriented process of death research: epistemological limits, the (extra)ordinariness of the research object, problems of field access, (implicit) norms and piety, the particular relevance of research ethics, as well as the resulting emphasis on the subjectivity and emotionality of the researchers. These basic assumptions can also be found in other research fields, but in their specific constellation, they characterize qualitative research at the end of life to a remarkable degree. Taking into account these lowest common denominators, sociological research can enable a detailed reflection on methods and thus a more differentiated and more insightful research process in the context of dying, death, and bereavement.

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Author Biographies

Ekkehard Coenen, Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Ekkehard COENEN ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Mediensoziologie an der Bauhaus-Universität Weimar und Mitbegründer des Arbeitskreises Thanatologie. Seine Arbeitsschwerpunkte liegen in den Bereichen Thanato-, Wissens-, Gewalt-, Kultur- und Emotionssoziologie sowie qualitative Sozialforschung.

Matthias Meitzler, Universität Passau

Matthias MEITZLER ist wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter am Lehrstuhl für Soziologie mit Schwerpunkt Techniksoziologie und nachhaltige Entwicklung an der Universität Passau und Mitbegründer des Arbeitskreises Thanatologie. An der Universität Bayreuth promoviert er mit einer Arbeit zu Individualisierung und Postmortalität. Seine Arbeitsschwerpunkte liegen in den Bereichen Wissenssoziologie, Thanatosoziologie, qualitative Methoden, Me­diatisierungsforschung sowie in der Soziologie des Körpers, der Emotionen und des Alter(n)s.

Published
2021-05-26