The Presentation Of The Dead: A Matter Of Grave Concern

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Sociology and Criminal Justice

Date of Award

Spring 2015


Cemeteries were recognized by early modern social thinkers as potentially rich data sources for the growing discipline of sociology. Sociologists have yet to extensively explore these data. Today, many researchers outside of sociology show an interest in what gravestones can tell us over a diverse set of topics (e.g. economics, history, anthropology, genealogy, and others), but a sociological perspective on the gravestone that might enlighten these diverse interests is largely missing from the available literature. This research looks more closely into how the gravestone is constructed through social interaction with symbols. Through the paradigm of symbolic interaction this study seeks to illustrate the larger social meaning of these stones, what this perspective on society can tell us about these stones, and in turn, what an examination of these stones through this paradigm can tell us about society and our reliance upon symbols for interaction--even after death. Through this approach, this research examines the deeper symbolic social meaning of gravestones and their significance to society. Findings confirm the early assertions about the importance of graves as data, and symbolic interaction theory offers ample insight into how these data reflect the relationships between self and society.


William E. Thompson

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology