Doing death differently? A digital ethnography of Aotearoa New Zealand death talking communities
For many people, talking about death may seem unnatural. However, for the death talking community, death is a normal topic of conversation. Death talking is part of a growing global movement of ‘ordinary’ people using online and offline spaces to talk openly about death, share resources, and share personal experiences. Through the use of digital technologies, such as social media, conversations about death span geographical divides meaning that online death talking groups have an international presence.In New Zealand, the death talking community uses Facebook pages and offline groups, often Death Cafés, to talk openly about death. Facebook provides a relatively accessible space for community members to discuss alternative ways of doing death, dying, and grief in a supportive group of like-minded people. This digital ethnography provides an insight into the New Zealand death talking community and answers how, and why, New Zealand death talkers created online spaces of conversation on Facebook, and what conversations about the death process were made possible through the use of Facebook and through offline meet-ups.My findings show the value of a community when pushing against normative conversational boundaries in what is perceived as a death-denying ‘western’ society. My findings also show that the death talking community is frustrated with the death practices they are currently experiencing, and are turning to death practices of cultures they romanticise in search of a more ‘natural’ and fulfilling way of doing death. In the search for this ‘natural’ deathway, New Zealand death talkers give authority to the personal experiential knowledge of community members as equally, or even more valid than the professional knowledge of ‘experts’. For New Zealand death talkers, Facebook and other death talking spaces offer people ways to reclaim control and authority over their death, dying, and grief processes.
Advisor: Wardell, Susan
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: "New Zealand"; Death; Dying; Digital ethnography; Death talking; experiential knowledge; Death denying
Research Type: Thesis