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SP30161: Sociology of death

[Page last updated: 04 August 2021]

Academic Year: 2021/2
Owning Department/School: Department of Social & Policy Sciences
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 1
Assessment Summary: ES 60%, OT 40%
Assessment Detail:
  • Essay 60% (ES 60%)
  • Essay 40% (OT 40%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Aims: To introduce students to some contemporary issues and questions in death and dying, and to show how sociology can shed light on these.

Learning Outcomes: By the end of the module, students should be able to:
* Will identify how dying, mourning and funeral rites vary over time and across societies.
* Has a detailed knowledge of social aspects of dying, bereavement, and funerals.
* Can critically evaluate historical and sociological explanations of the development of death practices in the modern era.
* Can analyse funeral rites and other post-mortem procedures, mourning practices, afterlife beliefs, and media representations of death.
* Critically reflect on the relevant literature and relate it to their own experience and observations.

* To think creatively and analytically;
* To communicate an argument, orally and in writing
* To evaluate others' arguments and research;
* To critically evaluate and assess research and evidence as well as a variety of other information;
* To select appropriate and relevant information from a wide source and large body of knowledge;
* To effectively and efficiently apply principles of sociological analysis
* To develop study & learning skills (note taking, avoiding plagiarism, using the library, gathering and using information, constructing a bibliography, referencing);
* To develop time-management skills and to prioritise workloads.

Content: Death poses significant organisational and ideological problems for any society, and yet there are significant differences in the way advanced capitalist societies solve these problems. How may these differences be explained? This module focuses on continuity and change in the British way of death, including care of the dying, funerals, mourning and afterlife beliefs, using comparative analysis with other societies to shed light on British practices. The module connects to the sociology of health & illness, the sociology of religion, and the sociology of the body, and illuminates a number of current public concerns.
1. Death & social order
2. Death & social change
3. The denial of death thesis
4. Dying
5. Euthanasia
6. Funerals
7. Mourning
8. Afterlife beliefs
9. The media and death
10. Death in the digital age .

Programme availability:

SP30161 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Social & Policy Sciences
  • UHSP-AFB22 : BSc(Hons) Criminology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AFB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB16 : BSc(Hons) Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB05 : BSc(Hons) Social Sciences with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB04 : BSc(Hons) Sociology with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHSP-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy (Year 3)
  • UHSP-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Sociology and Social Policy with Year long work placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2021/22 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2022/23 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2021/22.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.