Places of Dying and Rituals of Mourning

Tuija Nieminen Kristofersson

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The purpose of this paper is to explore in what way the place becomes important for those who are affected by disasters or sudden death. According to human geography people have affective bonds to the concrete physical places where they are living and moving in their everyday live. Places are also constructed as meeting places where people create social relations. In the discotheque fire in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1998, 63 young people died and over 200 were injured. Backaplan, the little square and street in front of the building where the fire occurred, became a memorial place. Young people and families of the victims assembled to honour the deceased with candles, flowers and poems. These memorial things were removed in cooperation with the affected families. Backaplan was, at first, the place of joy and party, then it became a place of death and sorrow.

Backaplan is not the only place that has been significant after a disaster. It is common today that places where car accidents have occurred or somebody has been murdered become important for the affected. Relatives of the Swedish victims travel to Thailand after the tsunami disaster in 2004 to look for their family members and to see the place where their relatives died. Ritual interactions is a part in the process of transforming a place to a charged place. The spontaneous and formal rituals at Backaplan and the other places are interactions which strengthen the group as Émile Durkheim found in his studies about religion. Interactions generate fellowship, solidarity in the group and emotional energy for those participating in the ritual according to Randall Collins theories about interaction ritual chains. For successful rituals, the bodily presence is necessary as well as a physical, concrete place.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication[Host publication title missing]
PublisherNordic Geographers Meeting, Lund 1-13/5 2005
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2005
EventInaugural Nordic Geographers Meeting, 2005 - Lund, Lund, Sweden
Duration: 2005 May 102005 May 14


ConferenceInaugural Nordic Geographers Meeting, 2005

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Human Geography


  • discotheque fire in Göteborg 1998
  • emotional energy
  • interaction rituals
  • place


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