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Last respects : exploring the place of funerals in a rural South African community

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Last respects : exploring the place of funerals in a rural South African community

Nicolai, Vanessa (2007) Last respects : exploring the place of funerals in a rural South African community. Masters thesis, Concordia University.

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Abstract

The dramatic rise in AIDS-related deaths in South Africa in recent years is making funerals a prominent part of the cultural and economic landscape. In rural communities such as Hamburg, in the Eastern Cape, they tend to cost at least five times the monthly income of the entire household. Based on seven months of fieldwork, this thesis explores how funerals are conducted in Hamburg, as well as many people's ambivalence about the seemingly necessary expense involved. Funerals are found to be a site of tension tied to gender, inter-generational relations and material inequalities. They also reveal the extent to which HIV/AIDS is still taboo. At the same time, they perform an important cohesive role, helping to keep the community together in the face of difficult realties. Using the twinned cultural norms of 'helping each other' and `building the homestead,' the thesis examines the ways in which funerals are materially and symbolically engaged in a complex choreography that both contains and explores the potentially disruptive aspects of the present. Finally, it is shown how local practices and understandings related to funerals speak to broader issues in the building of a new South Africa.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Sociology and Anthropology
Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Authors:Nicolai, Vanessa
Pagination:ix, 209 leaves : ill. (some col.), forms ; 29 cm.
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:M.A.
Program:Sociology and Anthropology
Date:2007
Thesis Supervisor(s):Cole, Sally
ID Code:975679
Deposited By: Concordia University Library
Deposited On:22 Jan 2013 16:12
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:40
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