Researching death: methodological reflections on the management of critical distance

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Abstract

As an academic subject of study, death has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. Yet unlike other topics in the social sciences, death occupies a rather unique status as a research topic. A universal concern that affects everyone, this paper asks whether it is therefore ever possible to achieve a scholarly 'critical distance' from studying a place or people associated with death. Drawing on the author's experience of undertaking an ethnographic study of a London cemetery, the paper reflexively recounts the ways in which the author managed their own critical distance both in and outside of the field. The paper concludes that it is somewhat unrealistic to suggest that a scholar researching death can maintain a complete sense of detachment in light of their awareness of the mortal human condition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-109
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Volume14
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011

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