Accepted Paper:

An anthropology of place and grief experience  
Sharon Greenfield (RMIT University)

Paper short abstract:

By spending grieving and bereavement time in a place imbued with the culture of bereavement, grief expression rituals allow for heritage-making. This paper presents preliminary ethnographic findings from a study of bereaved young people at a US national centre for grieving children and families.

Paper long abstract:

This paper discusses how a community embedded in place reflects and builds a culture and model for grieving at a US national center for grieving children & families. Heritage is now 'social, mutable and intangible' and hence by bearing witness to the cultural tradition of how a community grieves we give testimony to heritage-making through stories.

By local culture informing the way this centre teaches tools for expression in grief, place become culturally oriented. This centre's architecture and culture holds memories, and as such, the design of both encourage young people and families to tell stories of their dead and their grief experience week after week in the same rooms. Additionally, through the specific human experience exchange and values in the Pacific Northwest region of the US, this imbues context to the centre's cultural model of grieving and bereavement expressed through ritual and story.

I will reflect on notions of identity and culture expression through place-making and heritage-making, and how place impacts grief experience ritual making and helps create context for meaning during bereavement, as well as how memory is imbued into the architecture itself through the rituals built for the bereavement centre. This paper draws on long-term ethnographic research conducted at The Dougy Center, the US National Center for Grieving Children and Families, an organisation that offers support services to grieving children and young adults throughout bereavement and will argue that such a replicated centre in Australia could have real-world implications within an Australian cultural context.

Panel P12
Enlivening the dead: anthropology and heritage