Bereavement experiences in British African-Caribbean communities
: culture, social organisation and the legacy of oppression.

  • Aliki Karapliagou

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This thesis explores experiences of bereavement in African-Caribbean diasporic communities in Britain. It contextualises information and findings within unequal frameworks of social organisation that have their origins in the history of slavery, colonisation, and further postcolonial experiences. Bereavement in the context of traumatically dispersed and marginal communities has been analysed by psychologists who studied the impact of trauma and/or inequality and reported complicated processes of grief. Following grounded theory analysis of data collected in interviews with people of African-Caribbean heritage in the South-West of England, I corroborated and elaborated upon findings with insights from observations and documentary sources. Experiences of grief among people of African-Caribbean heritage in Britain were found to be qualitatively different due to marginality and social disenfranchisement. African-Caribbean heritage communities maintain unique understandings and attitudes towards death compounded and/or inflected by the historical legacy of loss and oppression. Despite adversity and hardship, it is through grief that participants experienced growth, social mobility, and personal/social transformation.
Cultural systems, or ‘cultures of grief’, cultivate resilient attitudes towards ‘loss’, which is a familiar and common concept articulated in African-Caribbean popular narratives. In this thesis, I also portray ‘ideal type’ social processes that facilitate bereavement’s post-loss adaptation. These processes are analysed in the context of gender and race categorisation, and unequal social organisation in Caribbean colonies and in post-migration Britain. I adopt a social constructionist approach to argue that people of African-Caribbean heritage grieve through hybridity, the multiplicity of which promotes reflexivity, resilience and growth. Experiences of loss that emanate from social disadvantage must be openly communicated and inter-subjectively negotiated in community-led frameworks of end-of-life care.
Date of Award14 May 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTony Walter (Supervisor) & John Troyer (Supervisor)

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