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Chapter 6 The End of a Century: 1998 Obituaries The end of the twentieth century leaves us with one final year, 1998, to assess. This chapter is devoted to the analysis of the 1998 obituaries, which when compared with the data from 1988, allows us to see the changes in the last decade of the century. Analyzing the obituary pages of this final year provides a sense of completeness. Since the volume surveys close to a century of obituaries, the analysis of this final decade also sets the stage for continued research into the new millennium. In addition, this chapter serves to test earlier predictions made through our obituary role and orientation model to determine, for example, if trends have been maintained (or reversed) at the end of the century and if explanations proposed earlier are supported by the results from the 1998 obituaries. A relatively smaller sample was collected for this chapter: a total of 600 obituaries, 200 from each language/culture. Except for the size of the corpus, all other principles of data collection and methodology developedforthemaincorpushavebeenfollowedinthecollectionandanalysis of this final data set. Compared to previous years, the overall number of obituaries has decreased in the Arabic and English newspapers in 1998 but increased dramatically in the Persian newspaper. The number of obituaries collected from Ettela  at (the long list) almost doubled from 248 in 1988 to 433 in 1998. AlAhram ’s obituaries, on the other hand, decreased by about 9 percent from 742 to 678 and the New York Times obituaries by a much more dramatic 43 percent from 1,081 to 615. These changes might be attributed to interaction with two factors: an increase in obituary size and a change in newspapers’ allotment of space to obituaries. The obituaries in Al-Ahram, for example, do not exceed onepageinanyofthethirtydayscollected,whereasinpreviousyearstheyoften extended into an additional half-page and at times a whole page. Likewise, in 1998 the family obituaries of the New York Times occupy a half-page most of the time when in previous years they often filled up a whole page. 241 242 Chapter 6 1. THE SHARING OF OBITUARY SPACE 1.1 Obituary Size The analysis of obituary size supports the observation that change in the overall number of obituaries can be attributed to interaction with obituary space allotment. The mean length of the 1998 obituaries is 19.49 lines, an increase of 2.3 lines over the 1988 mean of 17.19 lines. This increase proved to be significant in both Arabic and English obituaries, which posted increases of 4.17 and 2.19 lines, respectively. But in Persian obituaries, obituary size increased by only 0.52 lines, which is not statistically significant. The mean change posted during this final decade (2.3) is the second highest for any period, second to the (3.45) increase of the previous decade.1 The results in table 6.2 of the ANOVA test for variance (Bonferroni /Dunn) confirm earlier findings. No significant Sex effect is found on obituary size in 1998, but the effect of Culture is significant (p < .0001). Recall that the interaction of Sex and Time did not prove to be significant for the fifty-year period, although Sex had a significant effect on overall obituary size independent of Time. Thus 1998 is not different in this respect from previous years, and we can safely conclude that change in obituary size cannot be attributed to Sex alone. Nor is 1998 different with regard to culture effects. The two-way interaction of Culture and Time proved to be significant in 1998 as it did in earlier years. Table 6.1 shows that the mean length of Arabic obituaries in 1998 is 29.34 lines, in English, 15.12, and in Persian, 14.02. The difference in size between Arabic obituaries and both English and Persian obituaries is significant, but the difference between English and Persian obituaries is not. Furthermore, a comparison with 1988 obituary size shows the most dramatic Table 6.1. Change in Obituary Size Arabic English Persian Overall 1988 25.17 12.93 13.5 17.49 1998 29.34 15.12 14.02 19.19 Difference +4.17* +2.19* +0.52 +2.3 *p < .0001 1998 Obituaries 243 Table 6.2. Analysis of Variance: Obituary Size (1998) by Sex and Culture (N = 600) Source of Variation Sum of Squares df Mean Square F Main effects Sex 297.819 1 297.819 .2523 Culture 29227.75 2 14613.875 81.774* Two-Way Interactions Sex and Culture Arabic 268.738 1 268.738 .648 English 688.205 1 688.205 7.887** Persian 298.786 1 298.786 9.785** *p < .0001 **p < .01 increase is still in Arabic obituaries (4.17 lines), followed by English (2.19 lines). Change in Persian obituary size of 0.52 lines is the least dramatic (and also not significant). The change in the size of Arabic and English obituaries represents the second highest for any period. The highest increase in Arabic obituary size occurs in 1958–68 (5.09 lines), and for English obituaries, in 1978–88 (3.01 lines). For Persian obituaries, the increase during 1988–98 is the smallest for any time period, except 1968–78 when average obituary size dropped (figure 2.4). These results, then, establish an inverse relationship between obituary size and number of obituaries collected from each of the three newspapers in 1998. Persian obituaries posted the highest increase in number of obituaries but the smallest increase in obituary size, whereas Arabic and English obituaries posted significant increases in size but reduction in the number of obituaries. That such an inverse relationship can be established is an interesting observation in itself, but it does not directly impact the results. A more important finding, however, comes from the interaction effect of Sex and Culture on obituary size (table 6.2). Sex differences proved to be significant in two of the three cultures—English and Persian but not Arabic. This provides direct support for predictions made earlier by the obituary role and orientation model. Sex differences in obituary size tend to be least relevant when obituaries are not deceased oriented, as Arabic obituaries are. But in the more deceased-oriented English obituaries and to a lesser extent Persian obituaries, obituary size is impacted by sex. 244 Chapter 6 The analysis of obituary size relative to the median produces interesting results as well. The median for 1998 is 15 lines. A total of 278 obituaries fall above that mark. These include 111 obituaries of women and 167 of men (40 percent and 60 percent, respectively) (figure 6.1). The distribution by culture (figure 6.2) shows that the number of Arabic obituaries above the median is still the highest (149, or 54 percent), double that of the English obituaries (68, or 24 percent) and Persian obituaries (61, or 22 percent). In each culture the number of women’s obituaries above the median is still less than that of men. The discrepancy between the sexes in 1998 is most marked in the Persian obituaries, where only 15 obituaries of women (25 percent) fall above the median while 46 obituaries of men (75 percent) fall above that mark. The difference is smallest in Arabic obituaries, with 67 (45 percent) women’s and 82 (55 percent) men’s obituaries above the median. The ratio in English obituaries is almost the same as that obtained in Arabic obituaries: 29 women’s obituaries (43 percent) and 39 men’s obituaries (57 percent) obituaries above the median. Compared to the results presented in chapter 2, the English obituaries have become significantly longer and consequently the number of obituaries above the median length has also increased. In 1998, English obituaries are second to Arabic obituaries on both counts (mean and median). The widest gap between the sexes remains in Persian obituaries. 1.2 Population Distribution Some evidence emerges in the 1998 obituaries that the share of obituary space enjoyed by the sexes, measured as it is in terms of their numerical distribution, is becoming more equitable. The distribution of the deceased population by Sex (table 6.3) shows a 45 percent to 55 percent female-tomale representation, or occupation of obituary space, which represents an improvement over the 40 percent to 60 percent figures from 1988. But the analysis of the data by Sex and Culture does not achieve a level of statistical significance in 1998, just as it did not in previous years. The analysis of expected values predicts a sex-by-culture distribution of 90 women to 110 men in each culture. The actual distribution is not significantly different. Overall, the population distribution results from 1998 maintain previous patterns of representation and hierarchical ranking of sex and culture groups. Among the female population, Iranian women (30 percent) continue Fig. 6.1. Obituaries above the 1998 Median by Sex Fig. 6.2. Obituaries above the 1998 Median by Culture 246 Chapter 6 Table 6.3: Population Distribution by Sex and Culture (1998) Arabic English Persian Total Female 88 100 82 270 44% 50% 41% (45%) Male 112 100 118 330 56% 50% 59% (55%) Total 200 200 200 600 (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) to be the least represented and American women the most (37 percent). The hierarchy among the male population puts the Persian male as most highly represented (36 percent) and the American male the least (30 percent). 2. LINGUISTIC VARIABLES AND OVERALL POPULATION The distribution of the linguistic variables in 1998 maintains many of the trends established for 1988 as well as the overall population. A comparison with the results from 1988 shows little difference in overall representation with linguistic variables (table 6.4). In both years a same or very close level of representation is reached for all five linguistic variables with no dramatic change in percentage of deceased identified with any of them. An analysis of the 1998 data for the independent effects of Sex and Culture for the overall population of 600 deceased is also given in table 6.4. A comparison of these results with those obtained earlier (table B.1) for the original 3,800 deceased reveals some differences, albeit minor. In the distribution by Sex, the results from Title do not achieve a level of statistical significance. The female population is underrepresented in all but Social Titles; women’s acquired identity continues to be constructed through social categories significantly more so than does men’s acquired identity. The distribution by Culture continues to be statistically significant for all linguistic variables. Some differences emerge, however, in the relative contribution of each culture. For example, deceased identified by Name are again underrepresented in the Arabic obituaries, whereas the representation in English and Persian obituaries is almost identical. Identification by occupation 1998 Obituaries 247 Table 6.4. Linguistic Variables in 1998 by Sex and by Culture Sex Culture Female Male Arabic English Persian n = 270 n = 330 χ2 n = 200 n = 200 n = 200 χ2 Name 260 330 12.4** 191 200 199 14.8** 44% 56% 32% 34% 34% Title 120 163 1.5 137 19 127 171.8* 42% 58% 48% 7% 45% Occupation 33 120 45.5* 76 55 22 39* 22% 78% 50% 36% 14% Professional 4 82 67.2* 51 13 22 62.7* Title 5% 95% 59% 15% 23% Social Title 118 88 18* 88 6 112 179.4* 57% 43% 43% 3% 54% Time 1988 1998 (n = 718) (n= 600) χ2 Name 706 590 4.2 98% 98% Title 344 282 0.109 48% 47% Occupation 165 153 1.13 23% 26% Professional 108 86 0.131 Title 15% 14% Social Title 249 206 0.017 35% 34% *p < .0001 **p < .001 in the English obituaries is no longer underrepresented by comparison to the other two cultures; only Persian obituaries are underrrepresented along this variable. English obituaries continue to post the lowest figures for identification by social titles; both English and Persian obituaries demonstrate a decrease in identification by professional titles from their 1988 figures of 25 percent and 32 percent, respectively. 248 Chapter 6 2.1 Interaction of Sex and Culture Sex differentiation across cultures continues to be significant for most of the linguistic variables. A breakdown of the data by both Sex and Culture (table 6.5) shows the distribution by Name and by Professional Title is not significant in this cross-cultural comparison. The distribution is significant, however, for all other linguistic variables. Furthermore, the analysis of expected values points to the divergent Table 6.5. Sex Differentiation across Cultures in Linguistic Variables (1998) Arabic English Persian χ2 Name 4.3 Female 79 100 81 41% 50% 41% Male 112 100 118 59% 50% 59% Title 9.1** Female 58 2 60 43% 11% 47% Male 78 17 67 57% 89% 53% Occupation 9** Female 12 19 2 16% 35% 9% Male 64 36 20 84% 65% 91% Prof. Title 1.5 Female 3 1 0 6% 8% 0% Male 48 12 22 94% 92% 100% Social Title 9** Female 55 0 63 62.5% 0% 56% Male 33 6 49 37.5% 100% 44% **p < .05 1998 Obituaries 249 distribution from English obituaries. American women continue to be overrepresented by comparison to the other sex-by-culture groups in identification by occupation, and American men in identification by both title and social title. The Arabic and Persian populations are not significantly divergent from the expected values; their distribution does not achieve the required level of statistical significance in any of their sex-by-culture groups. 2.2 The Effect of Time To assess change during this last decade, results from 1998 and 1988 are presented in table 6.6 for comparative purposes. Percentages reported are of sex-by-culture groups in each of the two years. In 1998, for example, 90 percent of the deceased women in Arabic obituaries are identified by first name, an increase of 3 percent; in Persian obituaries 99 percent of deceased women appear with their first name, one percentage point less than in 1988. All deceased women in American obituaries are identified with a first name in both year groups. By far the largest percentage increase (46 percent) occurs in the identi fication of Egyptian women by social title; the next largest is a 33 percent increase in the identification of Egyptian men by professional title. The only decline in the Egyptian obituaries occurs in the identification of men with occupation (4 percent). In the English obituaries the two largest increases occur in the identification of both women (10 percent) and men (6 percent) by occupation. The only measurable decline (6 percent) in the English obituaries occurs in men’s identification with professional titles. In Persian obituaries the only increase (6 percent) appears in men’s identification with occupation. Representation by title shows the strongest decline for both women (11 percent) and men (15 percent). Most of this decline is due to decreased identification by social title: 5 percent for women and 11 percent for men. This comparison points to interesting changes within each culture that may also represent emerging trends. Degree of representation by occupation and professional title, for example, suggests a possible inverse relationship between the two variables. In both Arabic and English obituaries, increase in the representation of men in one coincides with a decrease in the other. In English obituaries they almost negate each other’s effect (6 percent for both) but in Arabic obituaries the difference is much stronger (4 percent decrease in identification by occupation; 33 percent increase in identification by Table 6.6. Change by Culture Group (1988–98) FEMALE MALE 1998 1988 1998 1988 ARABIC Name 79 83 112 144 90% 87% 100% 100% Title 58 52 78 82 66% 55% 70% 57% Occupation 11 8 64 88 14% 8% 57% 61% Professional Title 3 5 48 42 6% 5% 62% 29% Social Title 55 47 33 43 95% 49% 44% 30% ENGLISH Name 100 100 100 100 100% 100% 100% 100% Title 2 3 17 25 2% 3% 17% 18% Occupation 19 9 36 42 19% 9% 36% 30% Professional Title 1 2 12 25 1% 2% 12% 18% Social Title 0 0 6 0 0% 0% 6% 0% PERSIAN Name 81 88 118 151 99% 100% 100% 100% Title 60 74 67 108 73% 84% 57% 72% Occupation 2 2 20 16 2% 2% 17% 11% Professional Title 0 1 23 33 0% 1% 20% 22% Social Title 63 73 49 85 78% 83% 45% 56% 1998 Obituaries 251 professional title). Because almost all the results from Persian obituaries reflect a decline, I am tempted to suggest that obituary style is being renegotiated (redefined or simplified). Dramatic changes such as those noted above in Arabic and English obituaries suggest change in obituary style as well, which is perhaps best described as renegotiation of saliency or value assigned to certain categories in the identification of the deceased. This conclusion is further supported by the analysis of actual titles and occupations mentioned in the obituaries. 3. ACTUAL TITLES AND OCCUPATION TYPES Acquired identities as projected in 1998 obituaries are also similar to the overall profiles obtained earlier. Table 6.7 provides listings of the actual 1998 titles. The social identity these titles construct of Egyptian women is still relatively balanced (or split) between the religious and social respect categories (47 percent and 53 percent, respectively). Egyptian men’s social identity in 1998 obituaries relies more on religious titles, with 19 of the 33 social titles (58 percent) falling within this category and 14 (42 percent) within the social status/respect category. This suggests a divergence from the trend established earlier for Egyptian men, in which the identification of deceased men with religious titles was on the decline. The picture in Persian obituaries remains unchanged. Deceased men continue to be identified with their religious status more so than their social status, although the differences are not as marked as they were earlier: 58 percent of all social titles applied to Iranian men in 1998 are religious, 33 percent project social status, and 8 percent are mixed. In English obituaries, social titles are included in men’s obituaries only, with 6 deceased identified as Mr. None of the deceased women is mentioned with a social title (Mrs., in particular). In 1998, then, only the social identity of deceased men in the Egyptian obituaries has changed, reflecting an increased prominence of the religious (versus social) categories of social identity. Professional identity as projected throughtitleschangesdramaticallyforsomegroupsbutnotoverall.Theprofile constructed of deceased women does not demonstrate a professional identity constructed through titles: no deceased Iranian women are identified with professional titles; only one deceased American woman is identified with a professional title; and three deceased Egyptian women are identified with Table 6.7: Professional and Social Titles by Sex and Culture Group (1998) ARABIC Professional Titles Female Male Social Titles Female Male doctor 1 15 hajj(a) 26 12 engineer 1 8 sayyid(a) 22 1 accountant 1 2 ustadh — 11 ustadh(a) — 10 muqaddis(a) 3 4 military — 3 sheikh — 3 police — 5 hanim 2 — hajj, sheikh — 2 sayyida-hajja 1 — qiss, qummus — 2 anisa 1 — mustashar — 1 sheikh-arab — 1 khawaga — 1 Total 3 48 55 33 ENGLISH Professional Titles Female Male Social Titles Female Male doctor 1 7 Mr. — 6 reverend, DD — 3 judge — 2 Total 1 12 0 6 PERSIAN Professional Titles Female Male Social Titles Female Male engineer — 8 hajj(eh) 2 26 doctor — 5 banu 25 — military — 5 khanum 11 — ustath — 3 agha — 11 sayyid-hajj — 1 sayyid(eh) 5 4 ayatullah — 1 khanum-hajjeh 17 — banu-hajjeh 2 — dushizeh 1 agha-hajj* — 4 Total — 23 63 45 Note: *4 more combinations: agha-hajj-sayyid, agha-hajj-sheikh, hajj-sayyid, hajj-sheikh 1998 Obituaries 253 such a title. Furthermore, professional titles applied to women are, as in previous years, all from the professions and none from the military or the clergy. For deceased men, the professions still dominate in the identification by professional titles: 75 percent of deceased American men; 73 percent of deceased Egyptian men; and 70 percent of deceased Iranian men. Less frequently mentioned titles include those from the military and the clergy. Thus, compared to 1988, the percentages for Egyptian and Iranian men are more comparable in 1998 and women’s professional identity continues to be minimally constructed through the use of titles, if at all. The professional profile of the deceased is also constructed through identification with occupation. The female group is still less diverse than the male in the types of occupations used to identify them (table 6.8). Only two deceased Iranian women are identified with an occupation; of the 18 deceased American women so identified, 78 percent belong to the professional and managerial category; of the 11 Egyptian women so identified, 91 percent are from the first two categories combined. Thus the vast majority (84 percent) of the 31 deceased women identified with occupation come from categories I and II, the top of the socioeconomic scale. The male group is more diverse, although the vast majority (75 percent) also come from categories I (39 percent) and II (36 percent). The Egyptian group differs from both the American and Iranian groups in the relative ranking of categories I and II. Only among the Egyptian group are there more deceased from category II. Almost 50 percent of Egyptian men identified with occupations belong to this group, but only 28 percent of American men and an even smaller 11 percent of Iranian men do. The differences observed here may have cross-cultural implications in terms of the value assigned to managerial versus professional categories, reflecting differences in the social meaning (value, power, respect) associated with them. This might explain why in Arabic, the most status-oriented obituary culture of all three, more men are consistently identified with occupations belonging to category II than the expected category I. Looking at men’s obituaries over the fifty-year period reveals that more Egyptian deceased men are identified with occupations in category II than are American or Iranian men when the percentages of both categories are compared by culture. Out of 428 deceased Egyptian men identified with occupations, 29 percent of these occupations fall under category I; 26 percent fall under category II (table D.2). By comparison, in the obituaries of deceased 254 Chapter 6 Table 6.8. Classification of Occupations by Sex and Culture (1998) Arabic English Persian Female Male Female Male Female Male I Professional and 5 15 14 23 — 8 technical 45.5% 23% 78% 64% — 44% II Administrative 5 31 2 10 — 2 and managerial 45.5% 48% 11% 28% 11% III A  yan and — 1 — — — — representatives 2% IV Business owners, — 9 1 1 — — merchants 14% 5.5% 3% V Civil service and 1 3 1 — 1 8 employees 9% 5% 5.5% 50% 44% VI Clerical — — — — — — VII Sales — — — 2 — — 5% Other — 5 — — 1 — 8% 50% Total 11 64 18 36 2 18 (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (100%) (99%) Note: Percentages do not always add up to 100% due to rounding. American men identified with occupations (67 total), 51 percent are drawn from category I, while only 24 percent are drawn from category II. Likewise, 35 percent of deceased Iranian men identified with occupations (104 total) are identified with occupations from category I but only 15 percent from category II. So although the overall populations have shown consistent preference for the professional and technical category over the fifty-year period, the difference between the top two categories among the Egyptian male group is minimal, unlike the other two. In 1998, however, the trend is reversed among the Egyptian male group, and for the first time the percentage of deceased men with occupations belonging to category II dramatically exceeds that of deceased men with occupations in category I (48 percent to 23 percent, respectively) (table 6.8).2 1998 Obituaries 255 The trend is maintained among the other two male groups, however. Sixtyfour percent of deceased American men identified with occupations fall under category I; 28 percent fall under category II. For deceased Iranian men, the figures are 44 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The Egyptian male group then is consistently different over time in its occupational identification from both the American and Iranian groups. Since identification with occupation is only an option typically exercised by the family member(s) who author the obituaries, it is their perception of “importance” or “value” that determines their choices. The status orientation of Egyptian obituary culture would certainly encourage identification with occupations more highly valued on a scale based on perceptions of (socioeconomic ) power. For the most part, then, the trends observed earlier are continued in 1998, although some surprises do appear and new styles emerge. One interesting stylistic innovation appears in the Arabic obituaries, for example. We see for the first time in Muslim families’ obituaries statements like the following appearing at the end of some obituaries: wa nas  alukum al-faatih . a (and we ask you for al-faatih . a [the opening surah in the Quran]), meaning that we ask you to read the faatih . a for the soul of the deceased. The belief here is that the reading of this particular surah eases the way for the departing soul; it is also read every time one visits a cemetery, participates in a funeral procession, or even sees one. The introduction of such a phrase suggests that the Arabic obituaries in 1998 are becoming more like the Persian obituaries in terms of their role in the funeralization process: soliciting spiritual support for the departed soul from among the living. It also gives more prominence to the religious frame, for these obituaries now start on a religious (spiritual) tone by quoting a Quranic verse and end with another religious (spiritual) reminder. More than 14 of the 119 Muslim families (over 12 percent) chose to adopt this format in writing obituaries for their deceased. In so doing, they evoke the religious frame more so than in earlier years since obituaries would now begin and end on a religious (spiritual) note. ...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814336557
Related ISBN
9780814327555
MARC Record
OCLC
763158708
Pages
336
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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