The imagined death: Looking to the past for relief from the present

Jerry Floersch, Jeffrey Longhofer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In the recent social theory and historiography, scholars have challenged us to scrutinize the ways that we use history in forming our concepts and constructing explanation. This article explores the hazards entailed in writing an oppositional history of death and dying, where we search for relief from the chaotic present by looking to an orderly past. It is argued that in sociology, bioethics, and history, the past is presented in terms of the present, through both the imposition of our current ideological preoccupations and our culturally biased categories. The result is a depiction of history that separates us from them, an idealized communal past from modern forms of social life; the community in contrast to the isolated and anonymous individual. This article encourages scholars to revisit the historical and ethnographic record with the aim of discovering the actual historical events, ruptures, and continuities that form, dissolve, and reform death events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-260
Number of pages18
JournalOmega: Journal of Death and Dying
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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