"Mourning is thus submissive self-assertion"

I’m reading in preparation for a presentation I’ll be making at the International Association of Buddhist Studies conference in Atlanta at the end of June. The presentation is on “Mourning and Memory in Contemporary Cambodian Buddhism.” I might post something of the presentation here when I’m finished (though I’ve promised to do so with the paper I presented at the recent AAS over a month ago and have yet to get around to that, so take with a shaker of salt). But in the meantime, and partly as a note to myself, here’s a lovely quote on mourning and gender from James Redfield, reviewing a book by Loring Danforth on The Death Rituals of Rural Greece:

Grief is a feeling; mourning is a performance of this feeling. It takes place before an audience and engrosses resources that would otherwise be at the disposal of the living. It seems that such behavior, and therefore such feelings, are encouraged more in some persons and communities than in others. This variation could be examined in terms of differential evaluations of the obligatory and the useful; and this, in turn, could lead to an examination of the utility of mourning. It seems that these women lay claim to a space where for a time their grief becomes the most important thing in the world – and at the same time they enact their utter dependence on the departed. Mourning is thus submissive self-assertion. (Redfield, James M. 1984. Review [untitled]: The death rituals of rural Greece by Loring M. Danforth. American Ethnologist, 11.3: 618.).


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