Mark Powell 2008

University of Sheffield, UK

Keeping the contradictions: researching death, dying and care of the deceased

The paper is concerned with the analysis of interview transcripts and aims to provide insights into personal perceptions of death, dying, and care of the deceased. The interview data draws on initial research undertaken as part of a three-year ESRC funded project considering the cultural, social and emotional implications of funerary practices, grouped under the generic term of ‘natural burial’. The project will consider how varied interpretations, typologies and memorial practices have created diverse burial landscapes. While the paper is based on research that does not directly refer to ‘natural burial’, it will locate our research in a current UK social context, and will have relevance to other research in more general terms. The paper will highlight the difficulties and dilemmas of investigating the emotive issue of death and will stress the need for researchers to adopt a reflexive analytical and interpretative style. The paper also suggests the importance of retaining seemingly ambiguous and contradictory statements when attempting to understand an informant’s cultural understanding of death, dying and care of the deceased.


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