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Chapter 7 The Search for a Model, a Connection We have seen three worlds, reflecting three realities, or perceptions thereof, interacting. One is the world outside the obituaries with its own rules, players, and attitudes. The other is the world of the obituaries with its own rules, players, and attitudes. The link between the two lies in the families who author the obituaries and their worlds. The players are shared; the values are shared. But to what extent? How do they all relate to each other? How do they connect, or perhaps disconnect? In our search for a connection between the two worlds, the families as authors emerge as the best candidate. Their perceptions and decisions ultimately shape this relationship through the texts they create. Texts are never created in a vacuum; they need materials, factual or otherwise, for their content. They need an audience and a medium through which this audience is reached. And they need authorship to create text and a purpose for which text is created. The interaction of these forces in the production of obituaries as texts is ultimately responsible for variation across obituary cultures and styles as well as variation between the world as projected through the obituaries (via their authors) and the world outside as perceived by the audience as readers of these texts. The material, or content, is provided primarily by the individuals who populate the obituaries, be they deceased or survivors, through activities they engage in during their lifetime: their achievements, networks, and family background. Authors select information they deem necessary to create a text and to serve best the purpose for which text is created, namely, the communication of the event appropriately situated within the funeralization process to satisfy the needs of surviving families and put the deceased to rest. As texts, however, the obituaries may differ from other types of texts or genres in that their representations of individuals and events should for the most part be based on “truth,” or the realities of the world outside them. On that basis 256 The Search for a Model 257 the obituaries are expected to reflect that sociocultural reality. But, as we have seen, they do not always do so. This discrepancy between expectations and results is what I address in this final chapter. I begin by summarizing the major results of our analysis of obituaries and their deceased. These will be grouped into areas of convergence and divergence in relation to the social realities beyond the obituary pages in an attempt to model the results within a space-sharing conceptual framework. The summary I include in the next section is at times presented from a slightly different perspective, one that allows us to compare the identification of the deceased in terms of concepts of basic and acquired identities. Recall that a distinction was made early in the volume between Name as representation of basic identity and Title and Occupation as representations of acquired identities. Data collection and analytical methods adopted for the research necessitated a distinction between identification by occupation and professional title despite their overlapping domains, both being symbolic representations of professional identities acquired by the deceased during their lifetime. This is because analyses in previous chapters were based on the actual linguistic terms used to identify the deceased in the obituary pages (corresponding to the five dependent variables posited for analysis). As a result, the distinction between social and professional identification of the deceasedwasnotdirectlycapturedinearliergraphs.Thethreefigurespresented in this chapter (figures 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3) are designed to do that. I have combined the results obtained from the distribution of professional titles and occupations and used the combined figures to create a category corresponding to “professional” identification. I then use these (combined) figures to compare with figures obtained earlier on representations of social and basic identities of the deceased, that is, social titles and names, respectively. Percentages in these three figures are of sex group, culture group, and year group, respectively, and totals include figures obtained from the analyses of the 1998 obituaries. 1. THE WORLD OF THE OBITUARIES The world constructed through the analysis of the obituary pages is a gender- and culture-differentiated one, in varying degrees. Sex differentiation, for example, could not be established for certain variables within certain culture groups (for example, names and social titles in English obituaries), but 258 Chapter 7 there are very few cases where culture does not differentiate among sex groups. (See...


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