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Life crises (de)mobilize biographic, as well as social and cultural resources. They can be a matter of social accomplishment (dismissal from work, retirement, dropping out of university) or existential situations (illness, death, separation with a loved one). Respectively the coping with life crises is a complex process, which presupposes (re)invention of certain social and cultural patterns of the “effective”, “adequate” and “normal” reaction to the change in the health, professional, social, etc. status.
What role does generation/belonging to a generation play in this process of (re)invention? Which developments of the concept of generation in the field of history and sociology could be working for the study of life crises? Which patterns of coping with life crises could be considered as predetermined by the generation?
In attempt to answer these questions, the present paper provides a historical and analytical perspective of “the problem of generations”, taking as a starting point the famous essay of Karl Mannheim and referring to biographical interviews and focus-groups with carers for disabled people. Three main “cuts” of the concept under review are widely discussed: the generation and the life stages, the generation and the transmission of culture, the generation and the social change. The latter are seen as productive paths to understanding/defining of generation as an intersection of biosocial and historical time and respectively as an effective tool for tracing not only the construction of social and cultural identities, but also their transformations and discontinuities.
Keywords: Generation, life crisis, life cycle, transmission of values, social change
Abstract: The present paper focuses on the individual and collective representations of the afterlife in the context of the recent developments of the death study, which blend psychological constructivist and social constructionist approaches. The latter could be applied to representations of “heaven”, “hell”, “nothingness” among others in culture, as well as to the „traces“ of the presence of the dead in the reality of the living people – from the expectations for one’s own funeral and for the contents of the posthumous memory to the projections of the dead bodies such as „encounters with spirits“ and fear of worms. The analysis of these representations relies on a specific interdisciplinary terminology, flexible enough to describe the intertwinement of various types of socialization, (non)religious beliefs, cultural practice and biographical trajectories. It introduces notions such as posthumous reputations, postselfs and postbodies.
Based on a sample of 60 biographical interviews of men and women (75 years old and over) from UK, Bulgaria and Romania and turning to the terminology of the psychological constructivism and the social constructionism this paper discusses the construction of the nonliving body and living memory of the deceased person. It shows how the gaining of existential meaning of the death presupposes an exchange and interchange of cultural models of mourning and personal experiences, of public instructions and individual strategies for coping with the loss of the innermost image of the loved ones and the fear of the disintegration and decay of the dead body.
Keywords: death study, posthumous reputations, postbodies, postselfs