• Summary
  • Contents
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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.

Reincarnation: The Technology of Death
Reincarnation: The technology of death

According to the social historians Joseph Head and Sylvia Cranston (1977), one-half of the world's population believes in some form of rebirth, and as of 1981, according to a Gallup poll conducted in that year, 23% of Americans also claimed a belief in reincarnation. Today, few analysts of religious institutions would doubt the significance such beliefs hold for the contemporary experience.

The importance of such statistics is demonstrated in the discussion of reincarnation and death that follows, which is based on sociological research that I conducted during a 13-year period at the University of California, San Diego (Dillon 1998).1 This qualitative ethnographic study was designed to focus on the meaning reincarnation has for Americans who believe deeply ...

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