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Decolonising Bereavement Studies: Diversity and Social Justice in the Aftermath of Death

Jane Ribbens McCarthy (The Open University)

Human Geography Research Cluster Seminar Series 2021/22

Death, dying and disposal are well-established topics of study, both academically in the humanities, arts, and social sciences and from medical perspectives, including the practice of palliative care. Bereavement studies, however, occupies a much more ambiguous space as a site for multi-disciplinary academic work, being very heavily dominated by individualised and medicalised perspectives, particularly psychiatry and psychology, and connected to ‘communities of practice’ in bereavement services. Such approaches are underpinned by the humanitarian desire to assist and support people experiencing something termed ‘grief’.

Recent work on family deaths in Senegal, however, has shown the limitations of such terms as ‘bereavement’ and ‘grief’, rooted in Anglophone linguistic contexts, and has challenged dominant assumptions in ‘bereavement studies’. At the same time, following on from the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, work to address issues of decolonisation within the academy has gained new momentum.

This presentation begins to bring these ‘decolonising’ endeavours, and ‘bereavement studies’ into dialogue, seeking to open up conversations in a field that is currently very heavily dominated by particular perspectives that developed in affluent Minority worlds at a particular point in historical time. Such conversations demand new concepts, raise many new questions framed within different paradigms, and create opportunities for addressing issues of diversity and social justice in the aftermath of death, with the potential for further insights for climate justice for the benefit of all.

For further information, contact Ruth Evans (details below)


7 October 2021
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm
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Dr Ruth Evans, Global Development
0118 378 7755 


Online event