Dying well is an increasingly urgent and ubiquitous topic within discussions of ageing, palliative care, euthanasia, bereavement, grief, and mental health. This conference brings together researchers from across disciplines in order to place historical conceptions and representations of a ‘good death’ in dialogue with contemporary thinking. Encompassing a two-day research discussion and a public roundtable, the conference is oriented around the question of what a good death may be and how it might be achieved.
Participants will be asked to consider the various characteristics that have been and today are ascribed to a good death. To this end, the conference will incorporate the expertise of medical, sociological and anthropological professionals as well as insights drawn from a rich and diverse cultural heritage of death practices. For instance, attending to the aestheticisation of death and dying in literary and artistic works enables us to consider the possibility of a good or even beautiful death. In the case of philosophical approaches to thanatology, recent work has asked whether death itself should necessarily be understood as causing harm to an individual. This question is reflected too in religious discourse surrounding death and the idea of an afterlife.
It is also the case that an individual’s perception of what makes a good death is not only influenced by expert guidance but is shaped by the contexts of their lived experience, the vocabularies, conceptual frameworks, and narrative and representational resources available to them.Where there is a lack of conversation or cultural discourse around death, individuals are prevented from making genuinely informed choices.
Therefore, this conference seeks to tackle head on the challenge of talking openly about death, enabling dialogue between experts from different fields, as well as between academics and wider publics, with the aim of augmenting contemporary understandings of dying well. Is it possible for a contextualised discussion of a good death to recover or create new vocabularies, conceptual frameworks and practical strategies for dealing with death and bereavement? It is hoped that this interdisciplinary forum will generate new pathways to inflect the tenor of public debate around dying well, to shape policy, create resources and influence the experience of dying people and those who support them.
Laura Davies (University of Cambridge)
Emma Salgård Cunha (University of Cambridge)
Registration for this conference is now open. Fees are £40 (full price) or £20 (student/unwaged), inclusive of lunches and refreshments. One-day registration is also available.
Please note that papers will be circulated in advance so as to maximise the time possible for discussion across the two days. Registration will close on Sunday 6 January 2019.
There will be a rountable event ('What is a Good Death in the 21st Century?') in King's College over 6.00-7.15pm on 10 January. This is open to all, free of charge.