Over 250 academics, policy-makers and practitioners will come together at the University of Bath in early September for the 14th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal.

Hosted by Bath’s Centre for Death & Society – the UK’s first academic centre devoted to the study of all aspects of death, dying and bereavement – the conference will debate and discuss challenging topics such as taking death education into secondary schools, assisted dying and the paradox of control, as well as funerals for the future.

Drawing on national and international research, the theme of this year’s conference is on engagement and education when it comes to death studies. This will cover topics ranging from talking about death, developing better strategies to help those bereaved and facing up to the challenges posed by funeral poverty for families and wider society.

Varied talks will draw on research including from Bath’s Dr Kate Woodthorpe looking at the UK’s readiness to death and dying which suggests the UK is ill prepared, Dr John Troyer on reimaging future cemeteries, and research from Bath’s Dr Christine Valentine looking into how services respond to help families bereaved by alcohol or drugs related deaths.

Keynote talks include reflections by:

  • Professor Dame Sue Black (Pro-Vice-Chancellor Engagement, Lancaster University) - who was the lead forensic anthropologist for the UK response to war crimes investigations in Kosovo and has served in Sierra Leone, Grenada, Iraq and in Thailand following the Asian tsunami. Her talk will focus on the study of human remains for medical and legal purposes.
  • Simon Cox (Head of Insight and External Affairs at Dignity) - who is responsible for the UK’s most authoritative work on funeral costs. He is currently working with the University of Bath on cremation funerals and their impact on grief.
  • Professor Havi Carel (University of Bristol philosopher) - who teaches medical students and whose main research focuses on people’s experiences of illness and, most recently, the effect of breathlessness. In 2007, having researched the topic for many years Havi wrote about being diagnosed with a terminal illness and being told she only had 10 years to live.

Director of CDAS Dr John Troyer said: “The topics to be discussed at this year’s Death, Dying and Disposal Conference are pertinent to us all. Yet all too often we shy away from the difficult debates to be had on fundamental questions around end of life care, funeral poverty or bereavement support which collectively we have a pressing need to tackle.

“Attendees coming to Bath this September represent the world’s leading thinkers on all topics related to human mortality and the end-of-life planning and we’re delighted to welcome colleagues from around the world to share their valuable insights.”

Conference co-organiser and CDAS colleague Dr Kate Woodthorpe added: “The size and scope of the conference has exceeded all our expectations. It will be a fantastic event, drawing on research into highly significant debates around death, dying and disposal, affecting different parts of the world in a number of different ways. We look forward to welcoming delegates from around the world to Bath in September.”

The 14th International Conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal on Association for the Study of Death & Society takes place at the University of Bath from Wednesday 4 – Saturday 7 September. Dignity Funeral Directors sponsor the event.

For media wishing to attend please email press@bath.ac.uk with your name, outlet and any special requirements (ie. filming / interview requests).