By Jonathan Scourfield, Ben Fincham

Sociologists have debated suicide because the early days of the self-discipline. This e-book assesses that physique of labor and breaks new flooring via a qualitatively-driven, combined approach 'sociological autopsy' of one hundred suicides that explores what could be identified approximately suicidal lives.

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Extra info for Understanding Suicide: A Sociological Autopsy

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For a suicide verdict to be recorded, Atkinson concludes, no part of the model must be inconsistent with the coroner’s ideas about factors that are typically associated with suicide. The importance ‘of this practice for the social organization of sudden death is that it provides for the construction of a plausible story of how and why the death 26 Understanding Suicide occurred without which uncertainty and disorder would prevail’ (1978: 172). Coroners are not alone in constructing such stories and the involvement of relatives, witnesses, journalists and the like is deemed highly significant.

Ecological perspectives, are, once again, considered something of an exception. According to Douglas, the likes of Cavan downplayed the ecological aspects of their work in an attempt to avoid the ecological fallacy and, in so doing, placed greater emphasis on the importance of social and individual meanings to suicide, albeit without developing these ideas systematically. As well as rejecting the theoretical orientation of most previous studies, Douglas criticises their reliance on official statistics.

Yet it is undeniable that Maginot Lines exist. Although Jamison’s comments are not limited to social science, they highlight the disciplinary and methodological divide between approaches that focus on the complex stories of individuals and those that seek to develop scientifically robust generalisations. The Maginot Lines she mentions are, of course, very familiar within sociology and reflect the kind of divisions we drew attention to earlier. Our intention in this chapter is to cross at least one of the Maginot lines Jamison refers to by arguing for a method which uses case-based and variable38 What is a Sociological Autopsy?

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