Collective in exile: Utilizing terror management theory to understand women's wailing performance

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Although women's wailing at death rites in various cultures typically amplifies mortality salience, this ritual phenomenon is absent in the research literature on terror management theory (TMT). This study explored Yemenite-Jewish wailing in Israel as an example of how a traditional performance manages death anxiety in a community context. Observations of wailing events and interviews with Yemenite-Jewish wailers and mourners in Israel were analyzed to understand respondents' perceptions of the experience of wailing as well as the anxiety-oriented psychotherapeutic expertise involved. The findings are discussed to propose an alternative outlook on the intersubjective adaptive value of death anxiety. After describing TMT's view on the role of culture in coping with death anxiety, I consider the extent to which Yemenite-Jewish wailing is consistent with the premises of TMT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-539
Number of pages17
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: the author wishes express thanks to the following organisations for funding. The Research Authority, the Department of Psychology at the University of Haifa, the Lady Davis Foundation and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Publisher Copyright:
© McGill University.


  • Yemenite-Jews
  • emotional management
  • psychotherapy
  • terror management theory
  • wailing performance


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