Not all deaths are created equal: essays on the intersection of death, homelessness, and inequality

Shea, Amy (2021) Not all deaths are created equal: essays on the intersection of death, homelessness, and inequality. DFA thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This creative nonfiction essay collection, Not All Deaths are Created Equal: Essays on the Intersection of Death, Homelessness, and Inequality, is a journey to understand what happens to someone who dies while experiencing homelessness. Through creative and critical elements woven into personal essays that are informed by research on medical care, end-of-life care, and post-death care for those experiencing homelessness, as well as loss and grief, Shea bears witness to the disparities in death and dying faced by some of society’s most vulnerable and marginalized. This work seeks to engage a broad audience by utilizing the vast tools and creative elements provided by the essay form and structure such as narrative, scene, and dialogue while incorporating the rigor of academic research in a readable and engaging manner. The intention of this thesis is to increase awareness around the intersection of death, dying, and homelessness in order to advocate for a better quality of life and death for all, including those who are too often left behind.

Some of the chapters and content explored in Not All Deaths are Created Equal includes, “Death by a Thousand Viewings,” which critically reviews the documentary, A Certain Kind of Death, and discusses how this film drove Shea to act and to focus her research on the indigent death. “Field Notes of a Tombstone Tourist” is rooted in visits to different cemeteries and explores the differences between burial places for those who have money and those who do not. “Sweet Feet” is a recounting of Shea’s experience as a foot care assistant at a homeless day shelter. This chapter moves us from death into dying through the health disparities faced by those living on the streets. “Deaths of Disparity” takes a deep dive into systemic issues around health care and end-of-life care and how homelessness is exacerbated by un- or undertreated health issues and how those health issues can lead to untimely deaths. This chapter also highlights some of the initiatives that have been designed to bridge the gap in health and end-of-life care disparities including medical respite units and Housing First. “The Space that Remains” reviews the physical separation of rich and poor in both life and death, and how this creates difficulties in trying to extricate oneself from living on the streets, as well as where one is buried and how one is memorialized when dying as a homeless person. “In Memoriam: A Photo Essay” leads the reader through a photographic journey of various potter’s fields, while naming some of those who have been buried there, as a way to memorialize and remember those who died poor, indigent, and unknown.

Item Type: Thesis (DFA)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Feath, dying, homelessness, inequality, creative writing, essays, creative nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, health disparities.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies
Supervisor's Name: Reeder, Dr. Elizbeth and Richards, Dr. Naomi
Date of Award: 2021
Embargo Date: 19 May 2025
Depositing User: Dr. Amy Shea
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82199
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 28 May 2021 10:50
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2023 10:08
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82199

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