Thesis writing as grief work: An autoethnographic journey into identifying and positioning the bereaved self in Doctoral scholarship

PhD Thesis


Mulligan, Deborah Lee. 2023. Thesis writing as grief work: An autoethnographic journey into identifying and positioning the bereaved self in Doctoral scholarship. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/yyw17
Title

Thesis writing as grief work: An autoethnographic journey into identifying and positioning the bereaved self in Doctoral scholarship

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorsMulligan, Deborah Lee
Supervisor
1. FirstProf Patrick Danaher
2. SecondDr Naomi Ryan
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages329
Year2023
PublisherUniversity of Southern Queensland
Place of PublicationAustralia
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/yyw17
Abstract

Traditionally, scholarly literature about bereavement tends to focus on the death of a spouse or a parent, with less historical attention having been paid to the death of a child. Furthermore, this research tends to be empirical in nature and delivers generalised outcomes with minimal thought to the individual participant. This constitutes a form of exploitation and intentional intrusiveness in that researcher enquiry focuses on mining for statistical overviews that leave participants with the emotional fallout from their involvement in the project. Extrapolating from this, it could be said that parents’ individual voices are silenced academically.

Written in the vulnerable first-person voice, my study focuses on three distinct dimensions of doctoral writing as grief work: that is, parental bereavement, doctoral processes and personal transformation. Firstly, I examine the concept of trauma from the particularised circumstance of a bereaved mother (parental bereavement). Secondly, a range of issues related to the production of thesis writing is interrogated (doctoral processes). Thirdly, I consider the notion of self-growth as related to progression of the PhD journey (personal transformation). Vignettes of ‘conversations’ with my beloved pet dog are woven throughout to exemplify my emotional status and also as a vehicle for reflexivity.

This thesis provides a relational and contextual voice that can be added to the (at times) overwhelming environment of death studies. Knowledge is not a static phenomenon to be presented quantifiably as truth. Candidates undertake a doctorate in a multiplicity of personal situations. My story is offered to the community at large as an example of individual agency and purposeful living after a traumatic event.

Keywordsdeath, bereavement, doctoral study, purposeful living, grief work, cancer
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390201. Education policy
Public Notes

File reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher/author.

Byline AffiliationsDeputy Vice-Chancellor's Office (Research and Innovation)
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