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Soc M138: the history of suicide

by: Freddie816

Soc M138: the history of suicide Sociology M138

GPA 3.3

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Why the dead are so important to the American culture
Death, suicide and trauma
Class Notes
soc m138, Death, suicide and trauma, timmermans
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Freddie816 on Wednesday April 6, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to Sociology M138 at University of California - Los Angeles taught by Timmermans in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 60 views. For similar materials see Death, suicide and trauma in Sociology at University of California - Los Angeles.


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Date Created: 04/06/16
    4/6/16    ● Diogenes challenge  ○ Believed that the corpse was just nature and he asked to be thrown over a wall  after he died bc this would not make a difference to him if he were dead   ○ The problem is that the American culture does not treat the dead this way   ■ No period in the history of time has disposed of the dead this way  ● There has always been strong rituals and norms for the dead   ■ This is so because the dead are extremely important to our culture, this can  be demonstrated by how the dead are obtained after the Vietnam war­the  American government spent 100’s of dollars in order to retrieve the dead  who died in combat in order to give the dead a proper burial. Why was this  so important?:  ● The US was able to make amends by doing so   ● This brought the dead to order  ● I think that by retrieving dead bodies, reflects the importance of how  the American culture treats the dead by attempting to reinforce “the  good death”   ○ “The work of the dead” by Lackner   messages  ■ We care for the dead  ● The dead are sacred/holy saints   ● The dead body is the connection between the world of the living  and the world of god   ● Corpses never lose their aura even if we believe that they have no  significance  ● It is important that we know who the dead body belongs to (name)   ● The dead give us something to hold on to as the transition bw both  worlds (living and god)   ■ The dead symbolize and embody the fact that life is final   ● We care for and treat the dead with respect because:  ○ The corpse embodies the continuous relationship with the  living person  ■ ie­ Families need to know that they are burying their  own blood, in order to sustain relationship  ○ The way we treat the dead reflects our ideas of mortality  ■ This allows us to cope with mortality  ○ If we don't take proper care of the dead, the dead can haunt  us   ■ ie­the day of the dead  ○ Caring for the dead makes us moral beings   ■ The dead makes civilization  ● The dead shapes religion, art and politics  ● The corpse is an icon of the ungraspable  ● The corpses provides us with knowledge       4/6/16  ○ Causes of war  ○ Origin stories of civilization   ● The dead bring communities together  ● The dead can unmake civilization  ○ Smashing of tombs  ■ Provides negative Symbolism   ● This all demonstrates the strong feelings we have for the dead  ● Civil war­faustner (president of harvard university)  ○ Argument: people’s attitudes towards caring for the dead drastically change:  ■ People attempt to embalm bodies and send them back to where they were  from  ● People attempt to refrigerate bodies  ● People visit the battlefield  ■ Transforms rituals  ● Name the dead  ● Notify the kin  ● Count the dead   ○ Evaluation of how good the officer was  ■ National cemeteries are made only for those of the north  ● The fact that we punish the south by not burying the body leads to  further divisions  ■ The dead creates a crisis and brings people together   ● The body is the link of the person we knew   ○ This reflects our humanity: how we value humans     ● Cultural work of suicide  ○ Europe and early america considered suicide to be a sin and punished those who  were successful by:  ■ Dehumanizing the body: burned or torn apart  ■ Ravaging the property: house is torn down  ■ Burial is dishonorable­(stake driven through heart, stones thrown at body,  can't be buried at church)  ● (unlike a homicide, body and soul are killed in suicide)  ■ Example:   ● A corpse is found hanging from a tree in europe. A detailed report is  made and the corpse is trialed and found to be guilty of taking his  own life. The corpse is then punished:  ○ The corpse’ identity is erased from entire existence.   ○ The body is tied to a horseback upside down and is  dragged throughout town  ○ Body is thrown out to dogs  ■ Judas      4/6/16  ● Commits a crime against god, kills himself and soul is taken by the  devil   ○ Augustine  ■ Relied heavily on the 5th commandment: thou shall not kill  ● Suicide and homicides are sins to God's law and therefore a  violation to the 5th commandment   ○ Suffering is preferable to suicide   ○ Thomas Aquinas: 13th century   ■ Suicide is bad because life is given by God and taking of one's’ life is a  violation to God, and to society   ● Suicide is contrary to charity  ○ Individuals should love self  ○ The belief that revolved around this period is that suicide is a sin, a crime and  deserves to be punished   ■ Committing suicide was stealing from the owner  ● Slaves who committed suicide bc they believed that they would be  freed, would be torn to pieces on the basis that the dead body  cannot reach freedom once it is dismantled   ■ Soldiers who attempted suicide were deserting the state  ● Punishable by the death penalty   ○ Avoiding the consequences of committing a sin: suicide   ■ Those who committed suicide would go straight to hell and those who  committed homicide could still go to heaven. This idea was so strong that  people found ways to commit indirectsuicide in order to be guaranteed to  go to heaven such as by committing a homicide­ kill a child and turn  themselves in for execution  ● The idea was that by killing a child and being executed as a result  would lead to a desired death but the individual would still be  ensured to go to heaven bc he did not commit the act of suicide  himself  ●  In addition, by killing a child and not an adult, the child would also  go to heaven bc of the idea that children are innocent whereas  adults are most likely to carry sins   ○ This demonstrates the power of cultural beliefs: how we  deal with the dead are deeply consequential  ■ Suicide justified by the labeling of an act of insanity  ● Idea is that an act of suicide is no longer an act of will and can  therefore no longer be punished   ● Coroners hence begin to label suicides as acts of insanity   ○ Suicide can be prevented with mental health care   ■ Current remnants  ● Suicide is a crime  ● Suicide is a sin      4/6/16  ● Suicide is due to a disease    ○ Can be cured by mental health care   ● Examples of how these ideas still hold strong   ○ Life insurance does not cover purposeful deaths  ○ Suicide is not mentioned in obituaries  ○ Suicide is justified by being acts of attention   ● Summary: Do the dead matter?   ○ The main idea behind this lecture was to demonstrate that the dead are extremely  important to the american culture­demonstrated through symbolic rituals, such as  through governmental attempts to retrieve dead bodies in order to give the dead  proper burials­ obituaries, celebration of memory ie­MLK day  ■ This is further demonstrated through the early ideas of suicide: a crime/a  sin.  ■ Today: suicide is not covered by life insurance, ignored and avoided   ○ This is so, I believe, done to reinforce the notion of a good death (think of the right  to die movements, hospices etc)  


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