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Handling the stigma of handling the dead: Morticians and funeral directors

Handling the stigma of handling the dead: Morticians and funeral directors,10.1080/01639625.1991.9967888,Deviant Behavior,William E. Thompson

Handling the stigma of handling the dead: Morticians and funeral directors   (Citations: 10)
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This paper analyzes the ways in which morticians and funeral directors—people who make their living by handling the dead—attempt to overcome the stigma associated with their work. It reflects over 2 years of field work involving extensive ethnographic interviews with 19 morticians and funeral directors in four different states. The qualitative analysis reveals that morticians and funeral directors are acutely aware of the stigma associated with their work, most of which comes from handling the dead and being viewed as profiting from death and grief. Within the general theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism, the author identifies and examines the symbolic and dramaturgical techniques employed by morticians and funeral directors to neutralize and diminish the stigma associated with their work. Among these are symbolically redefining their work, practicing role distance, emphasizing professionalism, cloaking themselves in the “shroud of service,” and enjoying socioeconomic status over occupational prestige. Morticians and funeral directors make special efforts to shift the emphasis of their work away from the handling of the dead to providing important and necessary services for the living.
Journal: Deviant Behavior - DEVIANT BEHAV , vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 403-429, 1991
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