The Sociology of Funeral Service

Through the short history of this blog, I have highlighted a number of sociology courses that tackle interesting topics:

1. The course Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame is taught at the University of South Carolina and drew a lot of media attention.

2. Taught by a sociologist, the course Baseball in American Society is offered at Florida Southern College.

3. Recently, I highlighted a sociologist who teaches the Sociology of Self-Improvement.

4. I offer an addition to this list from Malcolm X College in Chicago: The Sociology of Funeral Service. Here are some insights about this industry:

Women have entered many educational and professional fields in recent decades. But the nurturing-woman stereotype seems to explain why more and more female students have decided to study funeral service. They have grown from a small minority to a small majority at the country’s 56 mortuary science programs.

In 2010, 56.8 percent of new enrollees were women, virtually unchanged from 56.9 percent in 2006, according to the American Board of Funeral Service Education.

The article goes on to talk about women still encounter some issues even as more women enroll in this field. On the whole, I would think that there is a lot of sociology that could apply to this field, particularly cultural ideas about death, emotions, aging and the lifecourse, gender, family, and race.

A few additional questions come to my mind:

1. While the article seems to suggest that women would be particularly well-suited for this field because of the “nurturing-woman stereotype,” it is also interesting to note that it has historically been a male field. Why was this the case and how exactly is this changing in the field?

2. It is interesting that this is now an academic field of study known as “mortuary science.” How has this field become professionalized over time? And has this shift toward a science helped lead to the increase of female students since women are now getting more degrees?

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