Till Death Us Do Part? Consumption and the Negotiation of Relationships Following a Bereavement

Stephanie O’Donohoe, University of Edinburgh
Darach Turley, Dublin City University
EXTENDED ABSTRACT - Many studies have focused on the active role of consumers in constructing meaning from encounters with goods, services or advertising (Belk 1988; Mick and Buhl 1992; Elliott and Wattansuwan 1998; Manolis et al 2001). Much of this work has related to self-identity, but there are some indications that consumption also plays a role in negotiating relationships. For example, Ruth et al (1999) examine how the experience of receiving gifts can affirm, strengthen, weaken or even sever a relationship. Recent work in the discipline has extended this focus to relationships between the living and the dead and how they can be modified through disposition or symbolic funerary ritual (Kates 2001; Bonsu and Belk 2003). This latter study examined the ways in which expenditure on such ritual could be managed to enhance the communal identity of the deceased and, by dint of kinship ties, those of bereaved family members. The present study aims to progress this research agenda in two ways. First, it takes a longer term, postmortem perspective extending beyond the short-term funeral period. Second, its focus is on the way in which a particular form of consumption is employed to negotiate an intricate nexus of personal relationships between living and dead, and living and living. In this sense it works on a broader relational canvas than that of communal identity formation.
[ to cite ]:
Stephanie O’Donohoe and Darach Turley (2005) ,"Till Death Us Do Part? Consumption and the Negotiation of Relationships Following a Bereavement", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 32, eds. Geeta Menon and Akshay R. Rao, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 625-626.