A relative absence: exploring professional experiences of funerals without mourners

Nicola Turner, Glenys Caswell

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When someone dies, it is usual for relatives to gather at a funeral to embody a collective act of eulogy for the deceased and stand against the finality of death. When someone who lived alone dies alone at home, it is not always possible to identify anyone to attend a funeral. In such cases, funeral professionals are required to perform the appropriate social rites in the absence of the confirmatory power of a society. Drawing on interviews with funeral professionals and ethnographic observations of funerals without mourners, we explore how professionals understand their roles in performing social rites against death when there is no one to participate in them. We consider the impact of attempting to make good a death generally perceived as bad, and we examine the significance of funerals as a social rite when the deceased is assumed to have forgone social relationships during their lifetime. 
Original languageEnglish
Article number0030222820959960
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2020


  • dying alone
  • emotional labour
  • eulogy
  • funeral
  • mourners


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