New Social Dynamics in Senegal workshop

Ruth Evans gave a very well received keynote at the New Social Dynamics in Senegal workshop organised by Aurélien Baroiller, Boubacar Barry & Hannah Hoechner, at Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels (13-14 March 2017). Her presentation, “Your tears are like pouring hot water on the body”: Caring for the dead and responses to a family death in urban Senegal, explored the social regulation of grief and how care for the dead is expressed. The workshop provided an opportunity to connect with other academics and researchers working in Senegal and think how best to continue the dialogue in future.

Towards an Anthropology of Grief

Ruth Evans was pleased to speak at the recent workshop Towards an Anthropology of Grief organised by Aurélien Baroiller, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium (8-9 March 2017). Ruth’s paper explored the paradox of absence-presence and the importance of time-space practices in understanding continuing care of the dead in urban Senegal. It was an excellent opportunity to discuss the research findings with anthropologists of grief working in diverse contexts globally.

Interpreting ‘grief’ and emotions in cross-cultural contexts

In our latest article in Mortality, we discuss the complex process of translating and interpreting ‘grief’ and emotions in multilingual, cross-cultural settings. Our research in urban Senegal demonstrates the importance of involving interpreters and field researchers throughout the research process. This enabled us to gain insight into the cultural nuances of indigenous languages and how these are translated and potentially re-framed in the process.

Read the full post here.

How can we produce emotionally sensed knowledge on death and bereavement?

Doing research on ‘sensitive topics’, such as death and bereavement, can raise particular challenges for qualitative and cross-cultural researchers. This is often due to the deep emotions which may be evoked among both participants and researchers, and the ways that emotions are culturally produced. Our new blogpost reflects on the methodological complexities of producing ’emotionally-sensed knowledge’ about death and bereavement in our qualitative research in urban Senegal.  It summarises the key messages from our article published in the International Journal of Social Research Methodology.

Researchers meeting local facilitators in Kaolack, Senegal

For whom and what do we grieve, when and where?

We are pleased to announce a new call for papers!

For whom and what do we grieve, when and where: : The geo-politics of diverse experiences of death, bereavement and remembrance: human and non-human

Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Annual Conference 2017, London, 29th Aug-1st Sept 2017

Session Convenors: Ruth Evans, Beth Greenough, Phil Howell, Avril Maddrell, Katie McClymont

Sponsored by: RGS-IBG Social and Cultural Geography Research Group and              Political Geography Research Group

Politics are at the core of geographies of death, dying, grieving and memorialisation (Johnson 1994; Sidaway 2009; Stevenson et al 2016), with local and national governments acting as key providers of cemeteries and crematoria and commissioners of public memorials; likewise, immigration policy and welfare regimes impact on experiences of bereavement.  Yet the politics and political processes surrounding death and how these intersect with socio-cultural differences are under-examined and little articulated. This applies to groups marginalised by monolithic and intersectional exclusion from power; likewise it applies to the politics of what, as well as who is ‘grievable’ in Butler’s (2009) terms: which species, where and when? which environments and contexts?

For these two sessions we invite conceptual, empirical and methodological papers which explore the varied political dimensions of embodied, personal, socio-cultural, geo-political, environmental and species loss through a geographical lens.

We particularly welcome contributions that address the following themes:
·         the geopolitics of intersectional migration deathscapes
·         cemetery and crematoria needs in multi-cultural society
·         minority provision in the face of hegemonic spaces and practices
·         gendered, classed and ethnic memorialscapes
·         death and bereavement in the global South
·         Post-Brexit experience of loss
·         cross-species grief
·         discursive and physical space for animals, including pets
·         memorialisation of war, including civil war and animal death
·         Loss of biospheres and habitat
·         Euthanasia
·         Extinction
·         Dialogue between human and non-human loss

Please send an abstract of 200-250 words to Katie.mcclymont@uwe.ac.uk or r.evans@reading.ac.uk by 5pm 6th February 2017.

See RGS-IBG website for further details.

 

UK could learn lessons from Africa in dealing with death

British society is not paying enough attention to how a death may risk pushing families into poverty and could learn valuable lessons from West Africa, according to a new report. Researchers from the University of Reading and the Open University say Britain could actually learn much from the example of less affluent countries in Africa, such as Senegal. Dr. Ruth Evans’ and colleagues’ research explored people’s experiences of a family death, and analysed levels of financial, emotional and practical support offered to bereaved families in urban Senegal. The study, funded by The Leverhulme Trust, provides the first in-depth understanding of responses to death, care and family relations in an urban West African context.

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A local mosque, Guédiawaye, Dakar.

Click here to read more

Download the Executive Summary or full Report

Télécharger le Résumé ou le Rapport (en français)

Key findings reported in the Senegalese press

Ruth discussed the research in policy workshops in Dakar and Kaolack last week and the findings were widely reported in the Senegalese press.  The research project found that Senegalese responses to death show how close-knit urban communities support each other, in the absence of support from government or non-governmental organisations. The crucial importance of informal support from the family and community following a death suggests the need for government and NGO services to adopt a ‘whole family approach’, which recognises the reciprocal roles of different family members. This could help to link up and enhance both formal and informal support systems in urban Senegal. 

Representatives of the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Dakar policy workshop, 7th December 2015

Representatives of the Ministry of Women, Family and Childhood speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the Dakar policy workshop, 7th December 2015

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Ruth presenting the findings at the Kaolack policy seminar, 4th December 2015

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NGO representatives discussion group, Kaolack policy workshop

Our paper at the Emotional Geographies conference

Ruth recently presented a paper, ‘”Your tears are like pouring hot water on the body”: exploring religious and cultural influences on responses to death in urban Senegal’ in the Geographies of Faith, Spirituality and Religion session (organised by Claire Dwyer, Ruth Judge and Elizabeth Olsen) at the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies. The paper focused on tears and the expression of emotions in responses to death in the family in urban Senegal, based on our preliminary findings. We also sought to interrogate our cultural assumptions about religious and cultural norms surrounding mourning and the expression of grief. We found it helpful to analyse our findings through the framings of emotional geographies and geographies of religion and received thoughtful questions and comments from colleagues.

First analyses of the findings

We are continuing with our analysis of the data, as we receive the transcripts. We recently presented a paper: ‘Caringscapes in Urban Senegal: gendered and inter-generational practices of care after the death of a relative’, at the Family Geographies, Care and Relationality sessions that Ruth Evans, Sophie Bowlby and Sally Lloyd-Evans convened at the 4th International Conference of Geographies of Children, Youth and Families, San Diego, USA, 12-15 January 2015. It was good to receive questions and feedback about our initial analyses of the transcripts from the first district in Kaolack. 

Caringscapes in Urban Senegal

We have completed the fieldwork!

Ruth, Josephine and Fatou conducted the fieldwork from May to July 2014. We recruited a diverse sample of 30 families predominantly of Wolof, Serer and Hal Pulaaren ethnicities  in two areas of each of the two selected cities (Dakar and Kaolack).  Médina and Guédiawaye were selected as contrasting areas of Greater Dakar, while Touba Extension and Kasnak were selected in  Kaolack following discussions with Senegal Advisory Group members and representatives of APROFES and AFEME, women’s rights organisations. Families in the four areas were identified through a local facilitator, local or religious leaders and efforts were made to ensure diversity in ethnic and religious affiliation and socio-economic status.

In total, we conducted in-depth interviews with 59 family members (2 in each family) who had experienced the death of a relative.  The majority of families were Muslim  and a small number (6) were Roman Catholic. Family members were selected on the basis of differing generational positions within households and on the basis of their relationship to the deceased. We also prioritised children and young people where possible. We interviewed 20 key informants, comprising local and religious leaders, community-based organisations, government and NGO representatives working at local and national levels. We also conducted four focus groups (one in each area) with groups of women and young people to explore community members’ perceptions of the neighbourhood and discuss cultural and religious practices and norms surrounding death, mourning and grief.

All the audio-recorded interviews and focus groups are now being transcribed and translated into French and English and we are developing our approach to data analysis through reflexive conversations among the research team. We plan to present a paper reflecting on the methodological issues raised by qualitative cross-cultural research that investigates responses to death at the Inter-disciplinary.net conference, Making Sense of Suffering, Dying and Death in Prague, 1-3 November 2014 , if you’re planning to go!