Anouncement : Workshop Towards an Anthropology of Death 8-9th of March

Aurélien Baroiller's picture

Towards an Anthropology of Grief

8th - 9th of March 2017

Université Libre de Bruxelles

Laboratoire d'Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains


If mourning customs, as well as funerals, have long been an important research theme for anthropologists, grief has for a long time largely been left to the psychiatrists/psychologists. In the past thirty years though, not only has the freudian model of grief, and the successive theories built upon it, been questioned, but some anthropologists have written various works which tend to illustrate the diversity of grief both inter and intra socio-cultural groups. This workshop aims to expand on the impulsion of those seminal works in order to clarify the inputs that such an anthropology can bring forth, its methodological and epistemological difficulties as well as to illustrate them with some detailed ethnographical acounts.


In this workshop, we will try to better define the role and place of Anthropology within the whole human sciences, many of which have already produced datas on this theme. We will interrogate the espistemological premises that an Anthropology of Grief could be built upon, the kinds of theoretical inputs that we can await from and/or that have already been made by the discipline's inquiries, the specific methodological possibilities that ethnographers can use to produce data on this subject, their limits and ethical cum practical difficulties, as well as, finally, the making of pluri-disciplinary studies of Grief including Anthropology.


To achieve this purpose, the workshop will open with the projection of the movie : "Burying Hallelujah" of Pr. R. Werbner. It is divided in two parts, the first one depicts the funerals of Hallelujah, a late bishop in Botswana, the second is a gathering of testimonies about the deceased. Completing this movement of our attention from the ritual and towards the berea ved, Pr. R. Werbner will then discuss the case-study and what it illustrates about grief in Botswana.


On the next day, we will discuss these issues through four main themes which all relate to established contributions of Anthropology in the study of death and grief.

In the first session, we'll deal with local norms and the way they affect both how the bereaved feel/think their grief, and the way they can express themselves through (or despite) them.

In the second session, we will study "unusual" or "complicated" forms of grieving which derive both from contingent situations and socially constructed representations and institutionalisation (through ritual) of the "good" and the "bad" death.

In the third session, we'll document the social framing of the "continuing bonds" bereaved person entertain with their deceased loved ones through the relational transformation process of grief. Defining the kinds of being the dead are and normative ways to entertain bonds with them is a social process. Nevertheless, embodying these normative means to nurture bonds wih the dead in certain ways always depends on the actors specific beliefs and values as well as the nature of the nature of the relationship they had with the deceased before his death.

Finally, we will examine "politics of grief", that is to say : the way certain acts of political violence can shape the grieving process, the ways the actors can make political use, or political statements through certain forms of grief, and the way grief can sometimes move the bereaved to political actions.


With presentations spanning four of the five continents the workshop will be an excellent occasion to interogate all those themes through cross-cultural comparisons.


We hope to see you all at the ULB on the 8th and 9th of March !




Opening projection of "Burying Hallelujah" by Richard Werbner - 8th of March 2017 – 4.PM to 6.PM


Where ?


ULB – Campus du Solbosch

Bâtiment U door A – level 0 – Room UA2.114

50, Paul Héger avenue



Workshop's day program – 9 th of March – 8:30.AM to 6.PM


8:30 Aurélien Baroiller : Introduction to the workshop's day

9:00-11:00 First morning session : Grief expression and cultural diversity


EINARSDOTTIR Jonina, Tired of Weeping” Revisited. Does Poverty Kill Mother Love (Guinea Bissau) ?

OTAEGUI Alfonso, “Shut up, I’m going to cry!” Songs, Non humans and Grief among the Ayoreo from the Paraguayan Chaco

SIMON Grégory, "To hide the eyes of the dead” in Kanak Paicî-camuki country (New Caledonia)


11:30-1:00.PM Second morning session : Unusual Grief experiences


HEMER Susan, Shock, anger and bad deaths : a reanalysis of grief in Lihir (Papouasia New-Guinea).

LEMOS DEKKER Natashe, Continuing bonds in Dementia : an ethnography of loss and anticipatory grief (Netherlands)


2:00-3:30 First afternoon session : Renewing “continuing bonds”


SILVERMAN Gila, Saying kaddish: Jewish mourning rituals and continuing bonds.

EVANS Ruth, Absence-presence and continuing care of the dead in urban Senegal


3:45-5:15 Second afternoon session : Politics of Grief


HARAM Liv, Women and their embodied grief-work : betwixt and between local kirwa traditions and Christian legacy

DUTERME Clara, A political dimension of grief. Individual and social healing after conflict


5:30-6:00 Final Discussion


Where ?


ULB – Campus du Solbosch

Institut de Sociologie (S building)

Room Doucy (12th floor)

44 Jeanne avenue