Through this paper, I seek to approach grief through how it is lived, the nexus between loss, and the sought-for physical abstractions through memory, objects, and materials to live with/despite such a loss. This paper is a phenomenological and ethnographic research project on the curatory rituals and practices that individuals employ in keeping lost loved ones alive in their everyday. I explore grief through a multidisciplinary and multimodal conceptualization rather than simply through cultural and social practices such as burial and mortuary rituals. The research follows the grief narratives of different individuals in Egypt in inquiring about the objects, memories, practices, rituals, and the mnemonic effect embedded within these varying elements. The research scopes grief and living with loss through psychology and psychoanalysis but, most significantly, ethnography and anthropology. Through this phenomenological approach, I analyze the relevant anthropological theories to these narratives through allusion to time, temporality, affect, the state and bureaucracies, memory, and objects. My central questions are: what is symbolically immortal for different individuals in coping with the loss of their loved ones? How is memory constituted, kept, narrated, and concealed to honor such losses, and what are the varying roles that objects and materials play in the networks of relations surrounding deaths? As I draw closer to my conclusion, I attempt to answer, “What is constitutive of loss when you lose everything with it?” I find that the most generative way to study grief is through a phenomenological approach to centralize each person’s experience and the meticulous ways of living with loss, as connoted by those who have lived and understood it. Thus, for me, experiences and narratives of loss have become at the heart of studying ‘grief.’ The materiality and cosmological manifestations of such loss contend with one another; ultimately, reliance on the unique path for living with loss is as unique as a fingerprint. Each person narrates their grief differently and, by extension, lives through it differently.
This project serves to centralize people’s experiences and narratives in navigating their lives with loss, how love is reprimanded from such loss and restructured or imbued in different ways. As an ethnographer and observer of grief, I find that nothing should be conclusive to such grief. At the heart of this struggle, we must always find ways outside of closed narratives and closed spaces to invite and sit and observe our grief, honor our losses, and live life despite and because of these losses. My personal losses and grievances have propelled me to write, research, and approach this topic. My autoethnography is interwoven through and with the multiple narratives that I include. I mainly include my story through my fieldnotes, Anthropoetry, and poesis.
I honestly and wholeheartedly cannot concur that I present a profound understanding or analysis of grief and believe it is contrary to my inclination to write this to say that one can do so. I wrote this to speak one truth to existence: narratives comprise these pains and can hold our understanding of anything within this world. Personal narratives, whether mine or that of the group of lovely individuals who have been a part of this process, are at the forefront of my paper. It is nothing without them, and everything it is, is because of them.
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Sociology, Egyptology & Anthroplology Department
MA in Sociology-Anthropology
Committee Member 1
Committee Member 2
Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval
Approval has been obtained for this item
(2023).Narrating & Living with Loss: Towards an Ethnography of Grief [Master's Thesis, the American University in Cairo]. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
Ibrahim, Fayrouz. Narrating & Living with Loss: Towards an Ethnography of Grief. 2023. American University in Cairo, Master's Thesis. AUC Knowledge Fountain.