Nana Adjeiwaa-Manu ’16 Honors Thesis: Grieving for the Ungrievable

Nana Adjeiwaa-Manu ’16 spent over a year developing her thesis Grieving for the Ungrievable: Support Systems Among Bereaved Ghanaians in the United States. “I’m looking at how support systems and ethnic identity work together to shape how Ghanaians grieve in the United States,” Nana says.

She attended a traditional Ghanaian funeral for her uncle’s wife during sophomore year, inspiring her interest in Ghanaian grief literature. Nana, the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, explains that “in Ghanaian culture we mourn very publicly through dance, through music, and through elaborate costumes. It’s more or less a tradition of celebration, like a party--and I wanted to understand why Ghanaians mourn in this peculiar way.”

Using interviews from 26 Ghanaian immigrant adults, youth, and children of immigrants born in the US, Nana says she is studying “the positive and negative aspects of community building as they grieve.” She explains that people turn to all kinds of sources as coping mechanisms, noting that, in the absence of religion, many turn to artistic expression.

“The larger purpose is to contribute to scholarship on black liberation,” Nana explains. “I think black bodies have often been deemed ungrievable, as we can see in examples of police brutality.” Nana also finds the research as an important act of personal self-discovery, as her life in America was filled with the Ghanaian culture of her immigrant parents. “It was a really great personal project for me, just to realize who I am,” says Nana.

Nana credits the Rockefeller Center and Mellon Mays programs with funding a total of 15 interview transcriptions, enabling her to spend more time focused on analyzing and interpreting her findings.

A Sociology modified with African and African American Studies major, Nana intends to pursue a PhD in sociology or anthropology, with the end goal of directing a nonprofit or working in nonprofit consulting. After graduation, Nana will work as a project manager for her high school’s new artistic exchange in Accra, Ghana.

Submitted by Doug Phipps ’17, Student Program Assistant for Communications and Student Outreach

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