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Interpreting 'grief' in Senegal: language, emotions and cross-cultural translation in a francophone African context

Evans, R. ORCID:, Ribbens McCarthy, J., Kébé, F., Bowlby, S. and Wouango, J. (2017) Interpreting 'grief' in Senegal: language, emotions and cross-cultural translation in a francophone African context. Mortality, 22 (2). pp. 118-135. ISSN 1469-9885

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/13576275.2017.1291602


This article reflects on the profound complexities of translating and interpreting ‘grief’, and emotions and responses to death more broadly, in multilingual, cross-cultural contexts. Drawing on qualitative research conducted in urban Senegal, West Africa, we discuss the exchange of meanings surrounding grief and death through language, including the process of translation, in its broadest sense, between multiple languages (Wolof, French, English). Our experiences demonstrate the crucial importance of involving interpreters and field researchers throughout the research process, to gain fundamental insight into the cultural nuances of indigenous languages and how these are translated and potentially re-framed in the process. We reflect on our iterative process of discussing emerging interpretations with participants in follow-up workshops and with our interpreter. This approach helped shed light on language use surrounding ‘grief’ and how this is bound up with wider socio-cultural norms which make particular emotions surrounding death and experiences/meanings of death and bereavement possible and ‘speak-able’. Our research calls for greater recognition in death and bereavement studies of the cultural specificity of conceptual frameworks developed in minority European socio-linguistic contexts and demonstrates the need for greater engagement with theoretical, empirical and methodological insights gained in diverse cultural contexts in the Majority world.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Human Environments
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:68230
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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