Feasting with Death: A Study of Funeral-Food Practices

  • Joshua Graham

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This interdisciplinary thesis, which draws on the allied social research fields, looks at the contemporary material culture of food gifting, creation, and consumption in an extended social network in northwest Georgia, USA, from the time of death to the meal immediately following an internment and any subsequent food-gifts specifically gifted in memoriam. To accomplish this, this thesis uses both participant observation and extended, food-centered interviews.Further, to proffer a wider perspective on Southern funeral food practices and to reconstruct a historical perspective lacking in the academic literature, this thesis analyses popular media generated by or about Southerners, including fiction and nonfiction books, music, blog posts, and films.The chief finding is that the normative funeral-food actors in the fieldwork location are white, Christian, and female. That is to say, funeral food is used not only to construct personal and communal identities but also to perform regional denominations of Christianity. Furthermore, the labor of constructing the material experience of Southern funerals is overwhelmingly the labor of women. Women express this behavior in a matrix of home-made versus purchased, and prescribed versus extemporaneous, food-gifts and corresponding social visits, all under the auspices of what is believed to be and is performed as Christian charity.Most social research on contemporary funeral-food practices analyses minority experiences, especially the experiences of people of color and/or those living in poverty. Because of the inherently comparative nature of many social-research methods, this focus on minority experiences leaves a large gap in analysis, which this thesis seeks to begin to fill.
Date of Award16 Oct 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorJohn Troyer (Supervisor) & Tony Walter (Supervisor)


  • Food
  • funeral
  • american south
  • death

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