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Culture, Suicide, and the Human Condition

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Culture, Suicide, and the Human Condition

Edited by Marja-Liisa Honkasalo and Miira Tuominen
Afterword by Arthur Kleinman

230 pages, 4 illus., 2 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-234-8 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (March 2014)

eISBN 978-1-78238-235-5 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Suicide is a puzzling phenomenon. Not only is its demarcation problematic but it also eludes simple explanation. The cultures in which suicide mortality is high do not necessarily have much else in common, and neither is a single mental illness such as depression sufficient to lead a person to suicide. In a word, despite its statistical regularity, suicide is unpredictable on the individual level. The main argument emerging from this collection is that suicide should not be understood as a separate realm of pathological behavior but as a form of human action. As such it is always dependent on the decision that the individual makes in a cultural, ethical and socio-economic context, but the context never completely determines the decision. This book also argues that cultural narratives concerning suicide have a problematic double function: in addition to enabling the community to make sense of self-inflicted death, they also constitute a blueprint depicting suicide as a solution to common human problems.

Marja-Liisa Honkasalo is Professor of Culture and Health at the University of Turku, Finland. She has worked as Academy of Finland Research Fellow at the University of Helsinki, at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Study and as Professor in Medical Anthropology at the University of Linköping, Sweden. She has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University and at La Sapienza, Rome. She has published monographs, edited volumes and numerous articles in international series on illness and death and has been awarded The Steve Polgar Professional Prize for the best article published in 2009 by the Society of Medical Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

Miira Tuominen is a University Lecturer in philosophy (University of Jyväskylä) and currently works as an Academy of Finland Research Fellow. She has published two monographs Apprehension and Argument: Ancient Theories of Starting Points for Knowledge (Springer 2007) and Ancient Commentators on Plato and Aristotle (Acumen/University of California Press 2009) and numerous articles. She has worked at two centers of excellence in Finland, at the Centre for Advanced Study (Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters), and at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Study.

Subject: General Anthropology Sociology


List of Figures and Tables

Introduction: Culture, Suicide, and the Human Condition
Marja-Liisa Honkasalo and Miira Tuominen


Chapter 1. The Construction of the Suicidal Self in Phenomenological Psychology
Charles J-H Macdonald and Jean Naudin

Chapter 2. When it is Worth the Trouble to Die: The Cultural Valuation of Suicide
María Cátedra


Chapter 3. “Tell Him to Follow Me as Quickly as Possible” – Plato’s Phaedo (60c–63c) on Self-Killing
Miira Tuominen

Chapter 4. Free Philosophers and Tragic Women – Stoic Perspectives on Suicide
Malin Grahn

Chapter 5. Moral Philosophical Arguments against Suicide in the Middle Ages
Virpi Mäkinen


Chapter 6. “She Kissed Death with a Smile”: The Politics and Moralities of the Female Suicide Bomber
Susanne Dahlgren

Chapter 7. “When We Stop Living, We also Stop Dying” – Men, Suicide, and Moral Agency
Marja-Liisa Honkasalo

Arthur Kleinman

Notes on Contributors

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