The Context of Transcendent and Immanent use of Humour

How Workers in Crematoria and Cemeteries in the UK are Coping with Death, Funerals and Second Hand Grief


  • Angie McLachlan University of Winchester



coping, death, gallows humour, immanent, transcendent


From my study, using an internet based questionnaire and field observation, data showed that workers in crematoria and cemeteries in the United Kingdom use immanent and transcendent coping mechanisms while witnessing the repetitive grief of others and the trappings of death and funerals. Data indicated that respondents used methods of coping in order to rise above death on a daily basis, which can be described in terms of Chidester’s (1990) theory of spiritual transcendence and Clack’s (2002) premise, that immanence, a worldly transcendence, may be gained by engaging with natural aspects of humanity. Throughout this study, respondents’ experiences were explored in terms of ‘working against death’ suggestive of Davies’ (2002) theory of ‘words against death’. Central to this article was the aspect of survey data which showed that many respondents purported to use humour as a coping strategy, and this article explores the ways in which their humour was found to be used contextually and responsibly, while maintaining its effectiveness against death.


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Author Biography

  • Angie McLachlan, University of Winchester

    Angie McLachlan qualified as an embalmer in 1994, winning the Trustees award from the British Institute of Embalmers for the highest marks in the theory papers that year. With 20 years experience of the funeral industry, Angie has also gained a BA (Hons) in Death Loss and Palliative Care from The University of Portsmouth in 2004, and recently in 2010, an MA with Distinction I Religion: The Rhetoric and Rituals of Death from The University of Winchester. Currently, Angie is a Partner of Red Plait Interpretation LLP – a heritage management, planning and interpretation consultancy, specializing in landscapes and the interpretation of cemeteries, death and mortality. She is currently doing a PhD at the University of Winchester. Entitled “Exploring the Language of Private Tears and Clandestine Humour: Dynamics, Benefits and Boundaries between Divergent ‘Insider’ Coping Strategies used by Death Workers,” her in-depth study explores the use of specific coping mechanisms by those who work within the death industry.


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How to Cite

McLachlan, A. (2013). The Context of Transcendent and Immanent use of Humour: How Workers in Crematoria and Cemeteries in the UK are Coping with Death, Funerals and Second Hand Grief. Fieldwork in Religion, 8(2), 209-222.