Social Representations of Death and the Death System

Carla Sofka, Stacey Pitsillides

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter is part of the 3rd edition of the Handbook of Thanatology, which will be published by ADEC (Association for Death Education and Counseling). It draws upon Kastenbaum’s classic framework of the death system (1972) and Sofka et al's (2012) extension to the thanatechnological death system to explore social representations that communicate broad messages about death, impacting how we understand death and grief in a range of environments, particularly considering shifts within the 21st century. The chapter begins with a discussion of the language of death including social movements and advocacy related to how death has changed over time. Visual, auditory, and spatial representations related to death and grief and their role in burial, memorialization, and design are then explored in both physical and virtual environments. Social representations of death as entertainment and death education are identified, and the phenomenon of parasocial mourning is also explored in relation to this. The chapter concludes with a discussion of ethical issues and tensions related to accountability in on- and offline death practices. Overall the chapter aims to chart a wide range of theory and practices that underpin 'Social Representations of Death and the Death System'
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Thanatology
Subtitle of host publicationThe Essential Body of Knowledge for the Study of Death, Dying, and Bereavement
EditorsHeather L. Servaty-Seib, Helen S. Chapple
Place of PublicationLouisville
PublisherAssociation for Death Education and Counseling The Thanatology Association
ISBN (Electronic)9781736112700
ISBN (Print)1736112708
Publication statusPublished - 9 Dec 2021


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