• 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.

Hosts and Ghosts: The Dead as Visitors in Cross-Cultural Perspective
Hosts and ghosts: The dead as visitors in cross-cultural perspective

All societies must confront the problems of death. The immediate and practical problems that death poses include the physical processing of the dead and the social processing of the death (grief, bereavement, and so on). The secondary problems are related to anxiety about death itself, which affects the members of the society, and to the need for an appropriate relationship between the living and the dead. In this connection, all societies project onto the dead some degree of animation. Furthermore, just as there is a social covenant among the living, there is a covenant between the living and the dead. As John Honigmann (1959), an anthropologist, ...

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