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The space and place of grief in geography: The "Avalanche Lady"

This thesis makes an original contribution to the socio-cultural and emotional geographies literature by focusing on Robyn Gordon's (the Avalanche Lady's ) experiences of grief. I argue that space, place, and emotions are mutually constituted. Thus, geographers are aptly positioned to examine the complexities and contradictions of spatialised emotions. Ideas about space and place do not exist in a vacuum. Also, the two terms, space and place offer geographers more when conceptualised as a complementary pair rather than individually (see Agnew 2005). By drawing on a wide range of contemporary geographical and social science literature, I explore how notions of space and place can be stretched to include the beyond , and how they can be conceptualised as fluid, contingent, and unfinished. In order to convey these new configurations of space and place from within an experience of grief, I employed three key methods. Three semi-structured interviews were conducted with Robyn. Further, she created a digital story using photographs, her choice of music and narrative, and kept a research diary. This empirically unique approach enabled me to produce a rich and contextualised account of what grief felt like, and continues to feel like for my respondent. Although grief is often touted as an individual experience, I contend that it radiates out into the wider social milieu through emotional, virtual, national, and international communities. Thus, connections between people and places are made and remade. I found that space, place, and grief interrelate on many levels including, private-public, personal-social, and specific-ethereal places. Robyn's home, her local community, and Japan were integral to the way in which she contextualised her grief. However, these conceptually traditional places pale in comparison to Robyn's spiritual (re)connections with James. This unexpected information required me to expand the analysis of place to include spirits in this research. Finally, representations of grief in public and media spaces were found to be paradoxical. Still, the digital story and this research as a process and as a representational space were considered by Robyn to be therapeutic. Overall, Robyn's grief is evolving, changing, complex, and contradictory, and something she lives with every day.
Type of thesis
Hutcheson, G. Y. (2009). The space and place of grief in geography: The ‘Avalanche Lady’ (Thesis, Master of Social Sciences (MSocSc)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/3599
The University of Waikato
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