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

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

Résumé de la recherche ‘Décès dans la famille en milieu urbain au Sénégal’

Nous avons le plaisir de présenter le Résumé de notre projet de recherche sur : ‘Décès dans la famille en milieu urbain sénégalais: deuil, prise en charge et relations familiales’, financé par le Leverhulme Trust. Les résultats seront présentés et discutés avec les intervenants lors des séminaires de diffusion à Kaolack et à Dakar et le rapport final sera publié en février 2016.

Feedback and dissemination workshops

Ruth and Fatou are currently doing feedback and dissemination workshops with young people and adults in Dakar and Kaolack. The workshops have been very useful in understanding more about the cultural significance of key phrases like ‘C’est dur’  and feeling ‘alone’ often used by participants when they talked about the emotional aspects of their relative’s death.  Ranking exercises have also highlighted key policy and practice priorities which will be discussed further with government, NGO representatives and religious and local leaders in seminars in Dakar and Kaolack.

Our paper at ECAS, Paris 8-10 July 2015

Ruth recently presented a paper based on our findings entitled, Young people’s responses to the death of a relative: a vital conjuncture that complicates pathways out of ‘waithood’? at a panel session on ‘Pathways out of waithood: engaging with a repertoire of strategies’, convened by Jørgen Carling (Peace Research Institute Oslo) at the European Conference of African Studies in Paris. It was great to discuss our findings with other researchers working on youth in diverse contexts in Africa (see here for more details). Fatou also joined Ruth, Sophie and Jane in Paris for discussions about our analyses and also presented a well received paper on street children in Senegal at the conference.

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.