Living and dying Lakota : an ethnography of a tribal nursing home
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] This ethnographic research looks at people who reside, visit, and work at a Native American tribal nursing home. Using grounded theory to sort through 18 months of participant observations, extensive fieldnotes, and 22 interviews – 12 with staff, three administrators, and seven residents’ interviews – my findings show that there is a complex tension between institutional and cultural particulars competing with one another in a tribal nursing home. The goal of this dissertation is to make visible the assemblages of meaning that are passed over by managerial views of nursing homes. By doing so, I show that a tribal nursing home cannot simply be understood as another nursing home, but must be understood in terms of its cultural resonance. I show how different fields of meaning engender culturally specific signifying practices and narratives that construct the nursing home under study as distinctly “Native American.” Fields in this context is much like the social worlds that Gubrium (1975) defines as a setting where they create order, meaning, and structure. I trace how particular objects of signification practices – family talk, discursive and material anchors, and ceremonies - help define what it means to be Native American in a tribal nursing home, thus constructing a unique institutional culture. This dissertation begins to fill the large gap in the fields of gerontology and sociology about Native Americans in general, and Native Americans use and understanding of nursing homes, in particular.
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