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Roadside memorial powerpointv6

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Description of roadside memorial research project.

Description of roadside memorial research project.


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  • 1. Dilemma of Sensitive Research: Grief, Roadside Memorials, and Qualitative Research Paradigms Art Jipson, PhD. University of Dayton, CJS Program
  • 2. Thank you for opportunity to discuss this research
    • Project 1999 to present
    • I became interested in
    • the symbolic, emotional, social, and criminological components to these memorials
  • 3. Roadside Memorials Project
    • The project has focused on ascertaining the reasons that led some people to erect a commemoration to a loved one or a friend who died as a result of an automobile accident.
    • The research has taken multiple tracks:
    • (1) Interviewing erectors of memorials,
    • (2) individuals who are connected to the memorials,
    • (3) content analysis of written material on roadside and other memorials,
    • (4) and collection and analysis of data on the laws in the fifty states.
  • 4. Research Challenges
    • Data Collection was a critical issue for this project
      • Snowball sampling techniques
      • Newsprint, Internet, recruitment letters left at memorial sites
      • Sensitivity was a concern
      • Community issues
      • Informed consent and data collection
  • 5. Visual Research Component
    • Digital Photography of Memorials
    • Video of Memorials
    • Interview process of review of memorial images and symbols with the erectors of the memorial
  • 6. Selected Interview Data I have interviewed 409 individuals involved in 219 Memorials (not all are listed below due to confidentiality requirements)
    • Midwest:
    • Ohio (78)
    • Kentucky (45)
    • West Virginia (15)
    • Pennsylvania (14)
    • Illinois (13)
    • Indiana (16)
    • Minnesota (3)
    • Iowa (2)
    • South:
    • North Carolina (24)
    • South Carolina (15)
    • Georgia (21)
    • Tennessee (16)
    • Arkansas (2)
    • East:
    • Massachusetts (8)
    • Delaware (5)
    • Massachusetts (7)
  • 7. Demographics of Erectors
    • Race 70% white, 20% African-American, 10% Hispanic or Mexican-American
      • Project was focused along roadways outside of metro areas
    • Kinship 95% family members, 5% friends or others
      • Most erectors are family
    • Gender 80% erected by women/ 20% erected by men
      • 60% were mothers, sisters, wives
    • Class 70% of erectors earn less than $120,000 annually
      • Most erectors were in the middle class
  • 8. Content Analysis
    • I have also conducted content analysis on over 137 newspaper and print articles, television and radio programs, and letters to the editors written on roadside memorials.
    • This analysis has helped contextualize roadside memorials in the local and national consciousness.
    • In addition, I have also reviewed the scholarly literature in literature, criminology, popular culture, cultural geography, and sociology on roadside memorials and other forms of spontaneous public commemoration.
  • 9. Little written on Roadside Memorials
    • Little scholarly work has focused on roadside memorials.
    • Instead research has focused on well-known large projects such as sanctioned historical markers or approved grieving spaces (such as national cemeteries)
  • 10. Why erect a Roadside Memorial?
    • Grief
    • Private Marker
    • Public Service
      • Public Marker
      • Warning about danger
      • Slow Down
  • 11. Other Markers
    • In all of my interviews, the roadside memorial is an addition to a conventional gravestone.
    • It does not replace a gravestone in a cemetery
  • 12. The Memorial is Powerful
    • For every single person involved in erecting a memorial that I have interviewed, all of them stated that the roadside memorial was more meaningful to them than a gravestone in a cemetery.
  • 13. Massachusetts Memorial
  • 14. Owensboro, KY Memorial
  • 15. SR 127 Ohio
  • 16. SR 127 Ohio
  • 17. Massachusetts Memorial 2
  • 18. Massachusetts Memorial 3
  • 19. MA Memorial 3, note the car part
  • 20. MA Memorial 3, note the objects
  • 21. MA Memorial 3, long shot
  • 22. Massachusetts Memorial 6
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  • 25. A memorial near the Dayton Mall It is important to note that as is demonstrated in the pictures that follow that some memorials can be quite elaborate in a variety of ways.
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  • 34. A Roadside Memorial from Hamilton, Ohio
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  • 37. A memorial near downtown Hamilton, Ohio Even small memorials demonstrate attention to detail and obvious care.
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  • 43. Common Themes
    • Symbolism (mostly crosses)
    • Names
    • Dates
    • Flowers (plastic and real)
    • Personal notes, mementos,
    • pictures
    • Personal items of the deceased
    • Use of color
  • 44.  
  • 45. Touchstone
    • “ She was so much more than a mere name in a newspaper. She was my sister and I loved her and I want everyone to know that she was here and she made a difference in people’s lives while she was here.”
  • 46. No Boundaries
    • “ My grief knows no bounds… no road, no highway, no grassy field can separate me from where my son took his last breath. It is my hope that his memorial will make the road safer.”
  • 47. Civic Engagement and Public Concern
    • “ Her memorial represents life and death and how quickly we can move from one to the other.”
    • “ We… I… had to do this. I was CALLED to put it up. People need… and still need to know… that he as here. That he mattered to us. And this could happen to anyone.”
  • 48. Qualitative Research
    • Challenges arose from the discussion of sensitive issues central to the display of grief for erectors of memorials
    • - Would I be emotionally connected to the memorials to the erectors? Would doing so assist with the research or “get in the way”
    • (feminist research and Sociology of emotions)
  • 49. Potential Benefits vs. Discomfort
    • Positive reflection
      • Pacing of interviews was critical to the outcome
    • Emotional pain
      • What would I do if grief became overwhelming?
      • Provided information on counseling (though few utilized it)
      • Confidentiality vs. Public displays of grieving
  • 50. Different States have different Laws
    • State and local governments have responded differently to roadside memorials.
    • West Virginia, for example has explicit legislation meant to regulate the size and placement of these memorials in its borders.
    • Other states, such as Ohio, view roadside memorials as a hindrance to travel and therefore consider them illegal.
  • 51. Rights
    • Not all states have legislation that directly applies to roadside memorials.
    • However the erectors of memorials speak about their rights…
      • “ The memorial takes nothing away from anybody else, nothing at all… I have the right to do this.”
  • 52. Removal and Memorials
    • As I began interviewing individuals and family members who erected roadside memorials it became increasingly apparent that county and local law enforcement are often unwilling to remove a memorial out of respect to the grieving parties.
      • There is agreement that there is a right to place a memorial…
  • 53. Law Enforcement and Removal
    • Removal happens infrequently even if there is some vocal opposition in the community and even in some circumstance where some in a community consider it a distraction (and a distracting commemoration would be illegal in all states)
    • Law enforcement does not want to appear to be insensitive to the feelings of the bereaved.
  • 54. Qualitative Paradigm Shift
    • More attention to research on and with emotion
      • Those who study qualitative methods need to consider these issues
      • Those who teach qualitative methods need to prepare students for the personal impact
      • Those who conduct qualitative research projects need to more fully consider their own emotional approach
  • 55. Thank you for Listening…
    • Any questions?
    • Please feel free to write to me about Roadside Memorials @
    • Art Jipson
    • Criminal Justice Studies program
    • University of Dayton
    • 300 College Park
    • Dayton, Ohio 45469
    • on Twitter @ artjipson
    • Or call 937-229-2153
    • or email me @ ( [email_address] )

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