The conference, sponsored by the Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS), lasted four days and attracted over 200 delegates from across the globe. This year, the conference was organised by the Centre for Death and Society (CDAS) at the University of Bath. The conference brought together practitioners and researchers from fields as varied as anthropology, criminology, medicine and archaeology. Professor Dame Sue Black, a criminal anthropologist, gave the opening plenary. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath was also there to welcome delegates to the university.
The conference has been held every two years since 1993 and 2019 marked the 10-year founding anniversary for the ASDS. The ASDS promotes the study of death in the arts, humanities, social and allied sciences and sponsors the DDD conferences.
This year, the conference was organised by a team of researchers based in the Centre for Death and Society (CDAS) in the Department for Social and Policy Sciences at the University of Bath.
The conference's call for papers stated that:
The Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal conference covers all aspects of death, dying, disposal, and bereavement. It is a multi-disciplinary residential conference open to all, including, but not limited to anthropologists, archaeologists, art and architectural historians, artists, bereavement counsellors, cultural theorists, critical race theorists, queer theorists, independent scholars, cultural geographers, deathwork practitioners, historians, literary theorists, medical and health practitioners, end-of-life and palliative care workers, philosophers, psychologists, students of religion, social policy analysts, social workers, sociologists, computer scientists, and those in the legal professions.
There were a number of plenary speeches given during the conference, including the opening plenary which was open to the public to attend. The opening plenary was given by Dame Professor Sue Black, Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Lancaster. She was the lead forensic anthropologist for the UK response to war crimes investigations in Kosovo and has also served in Sierra Leone, Grenada, Iraq and in Thailand following the Asian tsunami.
Professor Havi Carel from the University of Bristol gave a talk titled 'Take my breath away: breathlessness before and at the end of life'. While Professor Peter Bazira of Hull York Medical School gave a talk titled 'Wrangling professionalism, social identities and emotional labour in medical encounters with the cadaver'.
The conference was remarkable for the programme of social events which took place alongside the daytime sessions. These included a visit to Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol with guided tours of the cemetery; walking tours through the city of Bath; a wine and cake reception to mark the 10th anniversary of the ASDS and the welcome reception which took place at the Roman Baths.
The welcome reception was attended by the former Mayor of Bath, Mr Patrick Anketell-Jones, who welcomed delegates to Bath. He also recalled his own experience of being a pallbearer for nearly ten years and expressed his enthusiasm for the aims of the conference.
The conference received sponsorship from Dignity, one the UK's largest funeral service providers. Their sponsorship made it possible for the organisers to offer a heavily reduced delegate rate to over one hundred early career researchers. Simon Cox, Head of Insight and External Communications at Dignity, was invited to give a key note presentation on the evolution of the funeral sector in the United Kingdom.
The conference also received sponsorship from goSimply Funerals. This sponsorship enabled the organisers to offer a reusable water bottle to every delegate in an effort to promote more sustainable alternatives to single-use water bottles or plastic glasses.
A gallery of images from the conference can be viewed by following this link