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Confronting Loneliness with Devotion: A Short-Term Ethnography of Bible (E-)Reading in a Palliative Care Unit


Metzger, Gaudenz Urs (2023). Confronting Loneliness with Devotion: A Short-Term Ethnography of Bible (E-)Reading in a Palliative Care Unit. Journal of religion, media and digital culture, 12(2-3):340-361.

Abstract

Today, the practice of religion is strongly influenced by digitalisation, in not only everyday life but also liminal situations such as dying. Apps, social networks, and virtual church services offer believers opportunities for participation when their mobility is impaired due to ageing and severe illness. This short-term ethnography explores Bible (e-)reading and (religious) encounters in a palliative care unit of a Swiss hospital, drawing on in-depth interviews, participant observation, and documentary photography. Using the case of a devout Protestant, who was chosen as a case study from a sample of 12 terminally ill patients, I will investigate 1) the existential issues involved in the dying process, 2) how Bible (e-)reading alleviates these issues, and 3) the networks and encounters with which the practice is connected. The results show that anticipation of death in conjunction with personality and social issues bestow a complex emotional tone on the Christian’s end-of-life journey. Bible reading, performed both through mobile mediation and face-to-face with companions, is an avenue through which to gain strength and hope in this difficult situation. Another important finding is that the devotional practice involves an exchange of gifts, which transposes the practice into a moral economy of compassion and care.

Abstract

Today, the practice of religion is strongly influenced by digitalisation, in not only everyday life but also liminal situations such as dying. Apps, social networks, and virtual church services offer believers opportunities for participation when their mobility is impaired due to ageing and severe illness. This short-term ethnography explores Bible (e-)reading and (religious) encounters in a palliative care unit of a Swiss hospital, drawing on in-depth interviews, participant observation, and documentary photography. Using the case of a devout Protestant, who was chosen as a case study from a sample of 12 terminally ill patients, I will investigate 1) the existential issues involved in the dying process, 2) how Bible (e-)reading alleviates these issues, and 3) the networks and encounters with which the practice is connected. The results show that anticipation of death in conjunction with personality and social issues bestow a complex emotional tone on the Christian’s end-of-life journey. Bible reading, performed both through mobile mediation and face-to-face with companions, is an avenue through which to gain strength and hope in this difficult situation. Another important finding is that the devotional practice involves an exchange of gifts, which transposes the practice into a moral economy of compassion and care.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:01 Faculty of Theology and the Study of Religion > Institute of Religious Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:200 Religion
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Religious Studies
Uncontrolled Keywords:Religious studies, palliative care, dying and death
Language:English
Date:30 November 2023
Deposited On:01 Feb 2024 11:32
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:38
Publisher:Brill
ISSN:2588-8099
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1163/21659214-bja10085
Project Information:
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)