ERIC Number: ED188961
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1979-Jun
Birth and Death: The Social Construction of Cosmic Status Passage.
DeVries, Raymond G.
A comparison of the social structuring of birth and death in modern American society is proposed as a new area of study: cosmic status passage. The author compares the two events as cosmic, universal transformations. The similarities of the experiences are explored in six categories. First, the role of the birthing or dying individual is structured according to the degree to which the event is desired, controlled by the individual, scheduled, voluntary, a defining feature of the individual, visible to others, and a singular or group experience. The second category concerns the role of the modern family which is characterized by smaller size and more antonomy than families of earlier times. The result is that birth and death have a greater social-psychological significance and that moments directly following each event are regarded as a time of isolation for the immediate family. Similarities in the third category, control of information, include the appropriateness of birth and death experiences for "polite" conversation, legal arrangements such as birth and death certificates, and the dissemination of news about either event. Fourth, the role of medicine in both experiences affects the individual's capacity to define and control the situation and redefines the limits of acceptable risk and the nature of a normal birth or death. Fifth, collective concern about the status of these cosmic experiences leads to social movement in the form of hospices and alternative birth centers. Finally, the biological occasions of birth and death are often followed by culturally constructed rituals. The author concludes that the cosmic qualities of the two events cannot be ignored. (KC)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (Boston, MA, August 27-31, 1979). Not available from EDRS in paper copy due to poor reproducibility of original document.