DOI: 10.1177/00302228231199526 ISSN:

Nobody Likes the Forgotten Guardians of the Departed: A Critical Ethnographic Study on Social Isolation of Ghassals

Mahya Salimi, Ali Ruhani
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Health (social science)

In Islam, the ritual of burial including washing, shrouding and burying the dead body (Ghusl/Kafan/Dafan) has always been problematic. Burial in Iran has always been a well-ordered custom and there have always been specific people for this ritual (Ghassals). Due to dealing with the dead, their lives are always the focus of social discussions. Drawn on Carspecken’s (1996) five-stage approach, this research examined the social isolation of Ghassals in Yazd province, Iran. The data were obtained through participant observation (first covert then overt) and in-depth interviews with six Ghassals in Yazd. The main themes extracted included stigma and isolation, the experience of hegemonic violence, problematic companionship/not companionship, forced choice, job dissatisfaction, and social discouragement. Our findings indicate an undesirable social status for the Ghassals who are often unwelcomed by the society and in some cases even by the family. These behaviors ultimately lead to social isolation and depression among Ghassals.

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