We establish our selves through narratives--with others and by ourselves--during life. What happens, however, when a person dies? The following paper looks at the way narratives about the deceased's selves are created by the bereaved after their loved ones have died. The paper focuses on the narratives created on the deceased's tombstones, as these are available to the public and last the longest of all final declarations of the person's identity (i.e., obituaries, funeral programs, eulogies). Because I am interested in the way narratives of the self are constructed postmortem, a symbolic interactionist approach was used. The study focuses on three hundred fifty (350) tombstones in fifteen cemeteries around south central Minnesota. Using a coding system to analyze the messages presented on the stones, I show the various ways individuals are described--and how these ways change depending on the time during which they lived and their religious and cultural affiliations. In addition, because the use of cemeteries is extremely prevalent in American society, discovering what we say about our deceased loved ones can be useful outside of southern Minnesota as well.


Leah Rogne

Committee Member

Emily Boyd

Committee Member

Kathryn Elliot

Date of Degree




Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology and Corrections


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

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