The Trace of the Other: An Ethnography of Grief

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation explores the phenomenon of grief in a postmodern context. After a year of fieldwork and interviews with members of support groups in a medium-sized Midwestern city, the author explores the meanings of death in an American cultural and political context. The thought of Theodor Adorno, Jean Baudrillard, Paul Ricouer, Jacques Derrida, and other postmodern theorists is used to frame the meanings surrounding bereavement. Examining individual- and group-level data, the author explores class, gender, race, and religious dynamics in the construction of meanings of death. At the individual level, social psychological phenomena including ambivalence, limit experiences, and emotional work are discussed. At the group-level, the author discusses the interplay of communitas and diffrance as well as the norms of sincerity and authenticity in support groups. The author also suggests a call for renewal in sociology’s methodological enterprise with a reading of feminist methods and the ethics of the phenomenologist Emmanuel Lvinas.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-12202006-100649

Author Sarah Louise MacMillen
Advisor Lynette Spillman
Contributor Eugene Halton, Committee Member
Contributor David Burrell, Committee Member
Contributor Andrew Weigert, Committee Member
Contributor Kevin Christiano, Committee Member
Contributor Lynette Spillman, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2006-08-04

Submission Date 2006-12-20
  • United States of America

  • grief

  • religion

  • sociology

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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