I don’t click on the various quizzes and lists and general monkey-business that BuzzFeed produces. It’s not my thing.
Heather Havrilesky’s take on how BuzzFeed’s content might actually remind people (or, at least, her) of death’s inescapable touch is intriguing. The hook with John Updike and his Rabbit books makes her essay all the more eclectic for the New York Times.
I still won’t click on any of Buzzfeed’s listicles but at least now I find their impending death reminders more interesting.
Throughout this past week a series of news articles appeared in The Guardian newspaper about end-of-life decision making and assisted dying in the UK.
One of the very first posts that I ever wrote for the Death Reference Desk was on assisted dying in the UK. Over the past five-years, I’ve written countless variations on that same post. Again and again.
During the coming 31 Days of Death, I’ll spend time focusing on some of the specific reasons for the UK debate.
This week saw the coming together of different but related events. Professor John Ashton, who is president of the Faculty of Public Health in the UK stated that individual’s should be helped to die if and when they’ve decided a terminal condition is no longer worth fighting. This led Bonnie Ware, a Palliative Care Nurse, to say that she agreed and that more people should pay attention to the growing Death Midwife movement.
The entire week was capped off by author Terry Pratchett saying that he couldn’t attend an event in his honour because his Alzheimer’s Disease was finally stopping him. Pratchett personally entered the UK’s assisted dying debate in 2010 when he called for the creation of a tribunal to review a person’s request to end their life.
The io9 blog and news site (motto: We Come from the Future) is a reliable and entertaining source for science fiction, fantasy, technology, and scientific research information.
Every once in a while, a death related question or story pops up. A lot of the articles focus on radical life extension, which is to be expected.
The most recent death listing was different enough that I decided to feature it today on Death Ref.
Charlie Jane Anders asks a straight-forward but really intriguing question: Which Science Fiction or Fantasy book do you want read at your funeral? I’ll add in Memorial Service in case you don’t have a standard funeral.
Since my early teen years, the introduction to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams was something I wanted read at my funeral. In case you’re wondering, I really did think about these kinds of questions when I 13. I was a walking Judy Blume character.
After thinking more about different options, I came back to a perennial death soliloquy favourite. The problem, however, is that it’s in a film. I’m cheating. I admit it.
Three days into the 31 Days of Death and I’m already writing about necrophilia. It was going to happen, this much I knew, but I didn’t think so soon. So it goes.
Necrophilia is one of those topics that always grabs a person’s attention. Most recently, allegations of necrophilia appeared in the UK news and involved the deceased and publicly disgraced Jimmy Savile. An editor at The Conversation, a news and information platform that features articles by academics, asked if I could address why it is people find necrophilia simultaneously fascinating and disgusting.
That article is at the top of the page.
This request wasn’t entirely random. Indeed, I’m asked to discuss necrophilia at least 2-3 times a year and there’s a good reason for the requests. In 2008, I published one of the few peer reviewed academic journal articles on necrophilia and necrophilia laws. That article, Abuse of a Corpse: A Brief History and Re-theorization of Necrophilia Laws in the USA is available on the Academia.edu website.
If Meg, Kim and I have learned anything these past five years it’s that stories about dead bodies and sex, especially dead bodies being used for sex, will always attract attention on the interwebs. And then, if you’re lucky, people will start e-mailing you their tasteful nude photography taken in cemeteries. This really happened. I’m not making it up.
I have a hunch that before these 31 Days of Death are over I will end up discussing necrophilia at least once more. Maybe twice.
You should also check out Carla Valentine’s blog posts on necro topics.
I would be Andreia’s Ph.D. Supervisor in Bath and I really want to work with her.
Here’s the rub and hence the fundraising campaign: Andreia received a scholarship from the University of Bath but it doesn’t cover everything. She needs to raise £8,000 (which is just under $14,000) in order to cover some University fees and, most importantly, afford her Visa to study in the UK.
As a non-UK citizen who works in England, I can tell you that Visas are extremely expensive to procure. I’ve spent thousands of both pounds and dollars over the years on Visas. And hours filling out forms.
Andreia isn’t letting the need for additional funding dissuade her from starting her studies. Indeed, her resolve to begin the Ph.D. seems to only get stronger with each passing day.
One of the only ways Andreia has been able to raise the necessary funds is through a crowdfunding website called Student Funder. It’s a legit company and I think her campaign is worth supporting.
Andreia has FIVE DAYS left to raise the £8,000. She’s currently at £3,455.
So anyone and everyone– think about making a donation. It’s a worthwhile cause. I will also make sure that Andreia periodically updates the Death Reference Deask on her studies.
If you click here you will go directly to Andreia’s fundraising page.
I have also added in Andreia’s own appeal for funding and a video of support that I created.
My name is Andreia and I’m a 28 year old journalist and anthropologist from Brazil and since 2008 I have been studying the ways social networks and social media help us deal with death and dying. I have presented a research project and have been accepted for a PhD at the Social and Policy Sciences Department at the University of Bath. My research is about Virtual Wakes.
What is that?
A wake is a ritual where the family and friends of a deceased accompanies the body before it’s buried or cremated. The virtual wake is a live broadcasting of that very moment, and was created so that the ones who could not attend the wake itself can be present with the helping of new communications technology. That moment can be shared with those who never knew the deceased, so my research will be a qualitative study of how the Virtual Wakes can help us deal with death and dying, deepening work I started in 2011.
I am deeply in love with my research area, which only continues to fascinate me every day. In addition, I desire to become a professor in the future and this PhD has been my priority since 2012. Death is a fascinating topic and I am extremely interested in learning how we have been dealing with it in different aspects and eras – and what ways we will come up with in the future.
In 2011 I was awarded a scholarship to complete my masters in Brazil and I have attended, chaired and coordinated sessions in several death-related academic conferences in Argentina, Romania, Austria, England, Chile and Brazil. My master’s thesis was awarded with Praise and Distinction. Bath has awarded me a 75% discount scholarship on the tuition fees but, despite
this generous help, I am still lacking the final £8,000 to pay my fees and gain my visa.
That’s why I have set up this StudentFunder campaign and ask sincerely for your kind support.
Please do take me up on the perks outlined to the right so I can show my appreciation to you, my supporters.
The very very first post also occurred on June 07, 2009 but the links in the post are all broken and dead. Remember– five years(!) is a long time for the interwebs.
None of us had any idea that we would make it to year five. Indeed, this entire adventure started as a series of e-mail messages that Kim and I exchanged about wanting to start some kind of new website to discuss death, dying, and the dead body but in an interesting and compelling way that didn’t automatically revert to wacky funerals and lame puns.
Very quickly, however, Kim and I realised that we didn’t know anything about creating anything online so I e-mailed Meg who did and who also studied death. She said sure.
And that, dear Death Reference Desk friends, is how we made it to five years.
Sure sure we’ve had our collective ups and downs. Each of us has moved, loved, lost, laboured, felt guilty and then not guilty about not posting enough on the website. It’s just so easy (SO EASY) to use Facebook and Twitter….
Oddly enough, the three of use have never actually been together in the same room at the same time during the last five years. Not once. But the internet being the internet and death being death, it didn’t really matter.
Most disastrously for Death Ref, I unwittingly developed some naughty web posting habits that really irked Google and suddenly in 2012 ye olde Death Reference Desk stopped showing up in search results.
Thankfully Meg has swooped in and is fixing those issues while we continue to revamp and play with our fresh and minty new website.
We heart you Google!
In order to celebrate both the new website design and our first five years I am going to try something that I have always wanted to do with the Death Reference Desk.
For the next 31 Days, I will post at least one news story, thought, image, or idea each day on the website to demonstrate a key part of my own Centre for Death and Society research: we Humans are surrounded by death every single day. Not a day goes by where we don’t see/hear/smell something about death.
I will also use these 31 Days to flag up some of my favourite previous Death Reference Desk posts and try some other content ideas that I’ve never gotten to.
It’s important, I think, to challenge the conventional wisdom that describes death as a taboo and socially repressed topic. If Death Ref has demonstrated anything, it’s that both of these ideas are incorrect.
Museum of Morbid Anatomy
The next 31 Days will also be used for my own shameless self-promotion as I prepare to be the Morbid Anatomy Museum’s Scholar in Residence during the month of August. I will be giving a series of lectures, curating film screenings, and running field trips during the Residency.
The Morbid Anatomy Museum, as many of you may know, is in Brooklyn, New York and I already know how jealous everyone will be that I get to spend AUGUST in NEW YORK. I am already predicting daily experiences with aromatic summertime organic flesh decomposition.
A final big thanks to all of the Death Reference Desk’s readers. We’ve gotten many amazing (and, um, sometimes slightly creepy) e-mail messages over the years and we love it. All of it. All of you.
Especially from all of those kids writing High School or College essays on death who found Death Ref while pulling an all nighter and realised that Meg, Kim, and I saved them from complete and total failure.