383 research outputs found

    Ageing and dying are a continuum

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    Old age rational suicide

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    In the societal debate surrounding voluntary euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide, there is a concern that older people will be left exposed to any legislation, subject to either faint suggestion or outright coercion from familial or professional carers. Whilst it is critical to take account of older people's potential vulnerability to any current or proposed assisted suicide legislation, there is a parallel strand of research exploring another relationship which older people can have with this debate: one of activism. Sociological research has shown that older people make up the “rank and file” of those active within the right-to-die movement. One of the stated motivations of some older people requesting hastened death has been that, in spite of an absence of life-threatening disease, they feel “tired of life” or that they have lived a “completed life” and feel ready to die. The notion of suicide for reasons of longevity and being tired of life are becoming increasingly significant given the fact of global ageing. This article brings together empirical and theoretical research on the phenomenon of old age rational suicide in order to develop an underexplored area in both the sociology of death and the sociology of ageing

    Using Participatory Visual Methods

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    This toolkit aims to share our experiences of using a variety of participatory visual methods in a project designed to challenge stereotypes of older women, called Representing Self – Representing Ageing (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council [Res-356-25-0040]. See: www.representing-ageing.com for more details)

    Structural inequalities and dying at home during COVID-19

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    What is the cultural value of dying in an era of assisted dying?

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    Assisted dying is now a lawful and integral component of many societies ‘death system’, orienting individual and collective encounters with death and dying. While only a very small number of people living with terminal illness in these societies will opt for an assisted death, the choice, nevertheless, exists for those who satisfy the legal criteria. Theoretically, in these jurisdictions, this turns dying into an optional part of the human life cycle; a final phase of life that, until now, seemed a universal feature of life except in instances of sudden death. As anthropologists specialising in death and dying, we pose the question of how the various cultural scripts that have sought to give meaning to dying in post-industrial Western societies since the mid-20th century might be affected by the advent of assisted dying. We begin by building on both medical and social science literature to construct a working definition of ‘dying’. We then identify four dominant cultural scripts: psychological growth, preparation for death, the suffering experience and the caring experience. After outlining each script, we discuss how it may (or may not) be affected by the increase in assisted dying legislation. We propose that it is the ‘caring’ script; the notion of affective, intergenerational bonds created through the experience of caring for people specifically in the last few months or weeks of their life, which are likely to be most affected. However, we find that access to these cultural scripts is already limited because of the widespread reluctance to recognise and name ‘dying’, and the challenges of doing so. Consequently, the various cultural scripts we identify are negated not by the increase in assisted dying, but rather by a combination of medical advances and institutional orthodoxies which limit opportunity for people to experience themselves, or others, as ‘dying’

    A critical rejoinder to "Life’s end: Ethnographic Perspectives"

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    This article stands as a response to Goodwin-Hawkins and Dawson’s (2018 Goodwin-Hawkins, B., & Dawson, A. (2018). Life’s end: Ethnographic perspectives. Death Studies, 42(5), 269–274. [Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®], , [Google Scholar] ) article “Life’s End: Ethnographic Perspectives” which was published in this journal as an Introduction to a Special Issue of ethnographies about end of life. We address three interwoven fallacies promoted in “Life’s End.” First, we begin by challenging the authors’ central contention that there is no “rigorous body of anthropological work on the issue of dying.” We then problematize the authors’ conflation of anthropology and ethnography. Finally, we deconstruct their argument that there is an “anthropological aversion” to the study of dying stemming from the inherent “intimacy” of ethnographic methods, as well as their assumption that there is something uniquely emotionally challenging about studying dying. We argue that in framing their Introduction to ethnographies of dying as largely one of absence, Goodwin-Hawkins and Dawson ignore a rich history and diversity of research. In challenging the authors’ obfuscation of our subdiscipline, we offer as a corrective a wide range of examples taken from a substantive canon of ethnographic research spanning almost 70 years. We conclude with a broader call for slow academia to ensure that important scholarly contributions are not erased from memory and history rewritten

    The global spread of death café: a cultural intervention relevant to policy?

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    New demographic and epidemiological trends mean people are dying at older ages and over long periods of time, from multiple, chronic illnesses. There is a perception that these growing and changing needs will require novel community responses. One starting point is having ‘conversations’ about dying and death, and in this the phenomenon of ‘Death Café’ merits attention. In the first study of its kind, we report on interviews with forty-nine Death Café organisers in thirty-four countries, exploring how this ‘cultural intervention’, first developed in the UK, has transferred elsewhere. Using thematic analysis, we identify competing tensions between: local translation of Death Café and a desire for international alignment alongside instrumental use of the Death Café form and its incidental effects. The passion and commitment of Death Café organisers is compelling but may not lead to the behavioural change required to support a new public face of dying

    Death Café, Bauman and striving for human connection in ‘liquid times’

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    The death-positive movement, the latest enactment of the death awareness movement, posits that contemporary societies are suffering under a ‘death taboo’ and that people should talk more about death. In this article, we analyse an international social franchise aligned with this movement – Death Café – whereby strangers gather in a café setting to talk informally about death and dying. Drawing on interviews conducted with 49 Death Café organisers in 34 countries, we apply the theories of Zygmunt Bauman to interpret this social initiative. Our analysis shows that the way in which the temporary café space is staged for atmosphere and attended by strangers who engage in ‘taboo’ conversation, all serves to engender feelings of intimacy and connection. Rather than viewing Death Cafés as primarily spaces for death awareness-raising, we interpret them as paradigmatic examples of what Bauman termed ‘peg’ communities, constructed to assuage the loneliness experienced by individuals in liquid modernity
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