Comments on Closure from the Charles Horton Cooley Award Committee Chair

This week in North Philly Notes, Charles Horton Cooley Award committee chair Leslie Irvine honors Nancy Berns and her award-winning book, Closure.

The Charles Horton Cooley Award is given annually to an author for a book that represents an important contribution to the perspective of symbolic interaction. This year’s Award committee members were Joel Best, Michael Flaherty, and Leslie Irvine. The committee had the privilege of considering a number of books, attesting to the productivity and creativity of scholars working in the interactionist perspective. The book we chose to receive the 2013 Cooley Award is Closure: The Rush to End Grief and What It Costs Us, written by Nancy Berns and published by Temple University Press.

Closure smIn this carefully researched and beautifully written book, Nancy Berns examines how the term “closure” has come to  represent a new emotional state regarded as the appropriate end to grief, loss, and trauma.

We hear about the need for closure after school shootings, natural disasters, divorces, and deaths. Although the term is widely used, no one can truly define it. Nor can they agree on how to reach it. People seek closure through an endless list of strategies that includes witnessing executions, planting trees, writing letters, burning letters, and getting tattoos.

Drawing on documentary evidence from print and online media, court cases, autobiographies, and other sources, Nancy examines how the idea of closure became a popular concern. She reveals that although the term has origins in psychology dating back to the 1920s, it gained traction in popular culture during the 1990s largely through the influence of therapeutic techniques and victims’ rights discourses. In her analysis, Nancy combines insights from the sociology of emotions and the social construction of social problems. By shedding new light on how social forces shape our understanding of emotions, Closure will be a resource for interactionists for many years to come.

The Charles Horton Cooley Award Committee is pleased to give the 2013 award to Nancy Berns.

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