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CDAS Conference Keynote Speakers

Find out more about our Keynote Speakers at the Centre for Death and Society's Conference this May!

Sociopolitical Grief

Darcy Harris, King’s University College at Western University London, Canada


While most of us think of grief as an individual response to loss, there are losses that originate at the level of social and political institutions, with many creating a unique type of grief that is hard to describe. Sociopolitical grief includes the direct losses that are experienced by individuals and groups as a result of political policies, ideologies, and oppression enacted and/or empowered at the sociopolitical levels. We see the suffering that political policies and laws have caused those who are need care, are vulnerable, or who have been moved to the margins of society. We also grieve the losses created by inaction, such as the loss of our precious environmental balance and resources.

In this keynote, the concept of sociopolitical grief will be explored from many different perspectives, along with approaches to better understand the impact of losses that originate at the structural level and their impact upon those who work in various settings, such as health and social care settings.


Darcy L. Harris, R.N., R.S.W., M.Ed. (Couns.), Ph.D., FT, is a Professor of Thanatology at King’s University College/ Western University in London, Canada, where she also maintains a private clinical practice specializing in issues related to change, loss, and transition. Dr. Harris developed the degree program in Thanatology at King’s University College. In addition, she is a faculty member of the Portland Institute for Loss and Transition, dedicated to training in grief therapy leading toward Certification in Meaning Reconstruction in Loss. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Association for Death Education and Counseling and is also on the board of directors for the International Work Group on Death, Dying, and Bereavement. She is the series co-editor for Routledge Publishing Company’s Death, Dying, and Bereavement Series and she is an internationally-recognized speaker and author. Her publications include Counting our Losses: Reflecting on Change, Loss, and Transition in Everyday Life (Routledge), Grief and Bereavement in Contemporary Society: Bridging Research and Practice (Routledge), Principles and Practice of Grief Counseling (Springer), The Handbook of Social Justice in Loss and Grief: Exploring Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Routledge) and Non-Death Loss and Grief: Context and Clinical Implications (Routledge). Her most recent book, Compassion-Based Approaches to Loss and Grief (Routledge) was released in late 2022.

Walking amongst the Dead: Learning on the Move

Ruth Penfold-Mounce, University of York, UK


Mobile methodology has long been adopted in social science as a data collection tool and there is an established industry focused on cemetery and ghost walks as a novel and appealing way to engage interested audiences. However, in the academy and beyond death studies has rarely sought to embrace mobile methods as an opportunity to teach and engage students and broad(er) research audiences. In this keynote I will reflect on why that is the case and draw on my experience of creating a highly successful walk in the city of York, UK, to explore the value and potential that occurs through adopting an innovative pedagogic approach to the study of mortality, through ‘learning on the move’.

Bridging research and teaching learning on the move has, I will demonstrate, a range of benefits for participants. These include the stimulation of the thanatological imagination, the cultivation of conviviality amongst walkers through a shared learning experience, and the schooling of participants to communicate effectively and ethically about death, dying and the dead. I will explore this through the highly successful York Death and Culture Walk, an open access self-guided fully podcasted walk through the centre of one of the UK’s oldest cities. Designed to enable walkers to both know and understand mortality in historic and urban city spaces, since its launch the York Death and Culture Walk has become a powerful tool for understanding the city’s rich history of death, dying and disposal of the dead in evocative ways across space, place and time. In making a case for learning on the move in both teaching and research, I will be encouraging all attendees to consider the potential of death walks in their own communities and how this can provide a complementary and alternative method to engaging with diverse audiences.


Ruth Penfold-Mounce is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Deputy Head of Department of the Sociology Department at the University of York. She unites her interest in crime, death studies and popular culture through innovation and creative pedagogy. Ruth is one of the three founders of the Death and Culture Network (DaCNet) at York and the Death and Culture Book Series (Bristol University Press). Ruth is a keen advocate of research dissemination outside of the academy via broadcast, print and digital media platforms (@DeathandCulture) and is deeply committed to public engagement through annual events such as YorkTalks, York Festival of Ideas and various death festivals.