Time-spaces practices of care after a family death

We’re pleased to publish our latest paper, Time-space practices of care after a family death in urban Senegal, in Social & Cultural Geography, by Sophie Bowlby, Ruth Evans, Jane Ribbens McCarthy and Joséphine Wouango.  Here is the summary (résumé français ci-dessous)

The paper contributes to studies of care practices and care ethics beyond the Minority world by analysing informal caringscapes after a family death in urban Senegal. Based on the findings of a qualitative study in the cities of Dakar and Kaolack, we explore exchanges of care by the living for the living in the period immediately following the death, and changes in these care practices over the longer term. We focus on mobilities and changing care roles in family lives over time. We demonstrate the central significance of family commitments and concern for the wellbeing of the ‘family’ in caring exchanges. We suggest that a deeply relational understanding of personhood as bound up with family and community underlies many current caring practices in urban Senegal and challenges current conceptualisations of care interdependencies.

Pratiques spatiotemporelles de care après un deuil familial dans le Sénégal urbain

Cette communication contribue à la recherche sur les pratiques du care et de ses éthiques au-delà du monde minoritaire par une analyse des espaces informels du care après un deuil familial dans le Sénégal urbain. Reposant sur les résultats d’une étude quantitative dans les villes de Dakar et de Kaolack, nous explorons les échanges de care des vivants aux vivants pendant la période immédiatement après le décès, et les changements à plus long terme dans ces pratiques de care. Nous nous concentrons sur les mobilités et les rôles évolutifs du care dans les vies familiales au fil du temps. Nous démontrons la signification centrale des responsabilités et des préoccupations familiales pour le bien-être de la « famille » dans les échanges familiaux. Nous suggérons qu’une profonde interprétation des relations de l’identité individuelle comme étant liée à la famille et à la communauté sous-tend beaucoup de pratiques contemporaines du care dans le Sénégal urbain et remet en question les conceptualisations actuelles des interdépendances du care.

Loss and solitude in contemporary urban Senegal: exploring loneliness after a family death

We presented our paper, ‘Loss and solitude in contemporary urban Senegal: exploring loneliness after a family death‘ today in the panel session on Solitude in Africa, convened by Michael Stasik at the European Conference of African Studies 2019, University of Edinburgh. We analysed our dataset for references to ‘alone’, ‘lonely’ and ‘solitude’; feeling alone after a family death was commonly experienced by the majority of interviewees.  It was great to discuss loneliness and solitude in the context of West Africa with contributors and audience members. See our abstract for more details:

While tackling loneliness has risen up the policy agenda in the UK and other affluent societies, solitude and isolation in Africa appears to be a sign of a loss of social status and support and implies greater suffering (Jacquemin, 2010). In this paper, we explore experiences of loneliness after a family death in contemporary urban Senegal. We draw on in-depth interviews with 59 family members living in two cities, Dakar and Kaolack and four focus groups. Many young people and older participants described feeling ‘alone’, both at the moment of death and in the months following the death. These feelings seemed to conflict with the presence of relatives, friends and neighbours in the immediate aftermath of the death, as well as the sense of the presence of the deceased in homespace. While only one participant, a widower, lived alone, many widows expressed a sense of feeling ‘alone’ in their responsibilities to raise their children and manage the household following the widowhood-mourning period. The findings bring into sharp contrast the distinction often made in Anglophone literature between loneliness as a subjective, felt experience and social isolation as a more objective, observable phenomenon. The Wolof notion of Dimbalanté (solidarity/mutual support), which is closely connected to a relational understanding of the self, bound up with the wellbeing of others (often referred to as Ubuntu in Africa), appear central to understanding the meaning of loss and loneliness in contemporary urban Senegal. These findings have significant implications for conceptualising ‘solitude’ in cross-cultural contexts.