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.
We are continuing with our analyses of the interview transcripts, writing summaries of each family and coding the transcripts with Nvivo. Our recent UK Advisory Group discussions were very valuable in helping us identify how our research can best contribute to current debates in death studies, youth in the global South, emotional geographies and geographies of religion. We’ll be developing conference papers on these themes in the coming weeks!
Ruth recently wrote about her experiences of fieldwork for the SAGES Advice blog: Fieldwork, Gender and Careers: ‘In my experience, fieldwork is one of the most rewarding parts of the research process. My qualitative fieldwork with young people and families in Tanzania, Uganda, Senegal and Ghana as well as in the UK has enabled me to develop a deeper understanding of the dynamics and diversity of family life and the importance of reciprocity in caring relations and community support networks. I feel privileged to have been able to listen to people’s life stories, even if only for the duration of an in-depth interview….’
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.
Read the draft paper we are presenting at the Making Sense of Dying and Death Conference in Prague, November 2014: Exploring responses to death in varying cultural contexts: methodological reflections
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!
We held our first Advisory Group meetings in Reading and Dakar at the end of April and early May. Our discussions were very useful in refining our research instruments and thinking about language issues and our approach to accessing participants. Since then, Ruth, Josephine and Fatou have started the fieldwork in Dakar and Kaolack, working in two contrasting districts in each city. Key contacts with women’s organisations and local facilitators are helping us to access key informants and a diverse sample of families who have experienced a death in the last five years.