Historical Social Research

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34.4 - Premature Death

HSR Vol. 34 (2009) No. 4: Special Issue: Premature Death

Thorsten Halling, Silke Fehlemann & Jörg Vögele (Hrsg.): Premature Death: Patterns of Identity and Meaning from a Historical Perspective

Infant mortality, accidental death, suicide, death by fatal disease or in war action: premature death has many different faces. What do all these phenomena have in common? The present studies in this special issue investigate how different ways of dealing with premature death can serve to find out how constitutive societal values are established.

The scandalizing of certain forms of untimely death and the patterns of meaning demonstrate that certain groups of a population or certain ideals in society are estimated more valuable than others. Establishing patterns of meaning by offering generalised identification was applied for example to compensate the traumatic experience of a soldier's death. Although the process of dying itself has often been marked by signs - e.g. farewell letters of a person committing suicide or a suicide attacker - explaining the background to posterity, these signs can be misunderstood or modified by those who recognize them.

The present anthology is an interdisciplinary approach by scholars of history, art history, cultural sociology and cultural anthropology, medicine and philosophy to discuss these questions.

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