• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

Dying is a social as well as physiological phenomenon. Each society characterizes and, consequently, treats death and dying in its own individual ways—ways that differ markedly. These particular patterns of death and dying engender modal cultural responses, and such institutionalized behavior has familiar, economical, educational, religious, and political implications. The Handbook of Death and Dying takes stock of the vast literature in the field.

The Postself in Social Context
The postself in social context

For ordinary mortals, constructing a posthumous reputation is lonely work. We hope that our families and friends will remember us as we wish them to remember us, and we take steps to cultivate those memories. It is only under special societal circumstances that the mechanisms for producing posthumous reputations are institutionalized. For example, it is only in particular occupations under particular cultural and historical conditions that societies generate roles and institutions through which our reputations survive us.

Edwin Shneidman's (1973) notion of the postself is a psychologistic idea that captures the human concern for how others will see us and continue to be touched by us after we are dead. He wrote, “The postself relates to the ...

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