Speak of Death, Reclaim the Lost: Personal Experience Narrative in Death with Dignity



Kinney, Kaitlyn L

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Death is often described as something that simultaneously silences and is silenced within in our everyday lives. Biomedicine, in particular, has influenced these silences, shifting Western understandings of the body and affecting current American conceptions and experiences of death. Many individuals are discontent with the over-medicalized experience of death and dying. In the United States, this contributes to the rise of thanatological social movements. This thesis centers on the digital performance of personal experience narratives within the Death with Dignity movement— a social movement that seeks to change the current experience of death in the United States through providing another option for dying individuals and to stimulate nationwide improvements in end-of-life care. In the process of researching and writing this thesis, I conducted a literature search, coded and transcribed digital personal experience narratives, and incorporated discussions of repiner and patient storytellers within the Death with Dignity movement. I present and analyze these digital stories in an attempt to highlight why thanatological social movements not only provide insight into contemporary American conceptions regarding life and death, but also how vernacular death communication emerges.


This thesis has been embargoed for 5 years and will not be available until December 2024 at the earliest.


Death, Death with dignity, Social movements, Folklore, Personal experience narrative, Digital communication