Research

Why we (still) need to talk about death and society

From how we memorialise the dead, to planing for an ageing society and considering end of life care, talking about death and dying is as important in 2015 as it was when our Centre for Death & Society was established back in 2015.

From how we memorialise the dead, to planing for an ageing society and considering end of life care, talking about death and dying is as important in 2015 as it was when our Centre for Death & Society was established back in 2005.

This week marks 10 years since the University's Centre for Death & Society (CDAS) was first established – the UK’s first centre devoted to the study and research of social aspects of death, dying and bereavement.

To celebrate this milestone and as part of this year's annual conference 'Death & its Futures', those involved in CDAS since its inception will come together at an event on Friday hosted at the University’s new arts and management building ‘The Edge’ to reflect on why talking about death and dying as important today as it was in 2005.

Speakers at the event, including current Director Professor Tony Walter, will highlight how CDAS has developed and expanded a wide network, to include policy-makers and practitioners both nationally and internationally all interested in understanding more about death, dying and future planning.

Whereas at the start, much of the activity of CDAS was teaching-focused, including piloting an MSc in Death and Society and Foundation Degree qualification for Funeral Directors, since 2011 this focus has shifted to research projects covering topics from funeral poverty and affording a funeral, to understanding bereavement, and conceptualising end of life care options.

Death as taboo?

As it looks ahead to the next 10 years, CDAS’ research focus will be intensified as it makes new connections within the Department, for example with the Centre for Development Studies, with other areas of the University and with our international partners. CDAS is also part of a major project with GW4 colleagues at Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter concerned with planning for an ever-ageing society.

Ahead of the event, CDAS Director, Professor Tony Walter, said: “In some situations death is taboo, yet everyone is fascinated and indeed, ultimately united by it. Over the past 10 years we’ve found a great appetite for talking more about death in its different aspects and learning more about the different issues facing us individually, in our families and society at large.

“Though death is universal, the issues it confronts us with evolve. As we face up to the realities of an ageing population both here in the UK and also in the developed and much of the developing world, the issues CDAS is exploring are as pertinent today as they were back in 2005.”

Engaging the public in research

Through its 10 years, CDAS has been particularly active in engaging the public to help inform its research.

Joint Head of Public Engagement at the University, Dr Helen Featherstone said: "CDAS have embraced the engaged research agenda, bringing people who are not normally involved in research into their activities and giving them a voice. One such project was Dead and Buried where researchers worked with young people through The Park Local Opportunities Centre and Kumiko Community Arts in Bristol to explore issues of death and alternative burial processes.

"CDAS have also got involved with other public engagement opportunities including entering the Images of Research competition and developing the innovative pilot project Bath Matters with the ICIA and Unfinished Business theatre company to discuss ageing within the Bath community."

Research from CDAS has also been widely reported both in the national and international media, most recently in relation to a joint CDAS / IPR Policy Brief on funeral costs.

According to the latest Research Excellence Framework 2014, 84 per cent of Bath research in social and policy sciences in this area was judged to be ‘world leading’ or ‘internationally excellent.’

If you found this interesting, you might also like:

Cost of dying rises seven times faster than cost of living - October 2014

Commenting on the Assisted Dying Bill - July 2014

Too poor to die - January 2014

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Andy Dunne
University Press Office
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