10 Jan 2019 - 11 Jan 2019 All day SG1 and SG2, Alison Richard Building


Registration for this conference is now closed. 

There will be a rountable event ('What is a Good Death in the 21st Century?') in King's College over 6.00-7.15pm on 10 January. This is open to all, free of charge.

Further information about the roundtable is online here. Tickets are available via EventBrite, although anyone registering for the full conference will automatically be allocated a place.



Laura Davies (University of Cambridge)

Emma Salgård Cunha (University of Cambridge)



Dying well is an increasingly urgent and ubiquitous topic within discussions of ageing, palliative care, euthanasia, bereavement, grief, and mental health. This conference brings together researchers from across disciplines in order to place historical conceptions and representations of a ‘good death’ in dialogue with contemporary thinking. Encompassing a two-day research discussion and a public roundtable, the conference is oriented around the question of what a good death may be and how it might be achieved. 

Participants will be asked to consider the various characteristics that have been and today are ascribed to a good death. To this end, the conference will incorporate the expertise of medical, sociological and anthropological professionals as well as insights drawn from a rich and diverse cultural heritage of death practices. For instance, attending to the aestheticisation of death and dying in literary and artistic works enables us to consider the possibility of a good or even beautiful death. In the case of philosophical approaches to thanatology, recent work has asked whether death itself should necessarily be understood as causing harm to an individual. This question is reflected too in religious discourse surrounding death and the idea of an afterlife.

It is also the case that an individual’s perception of what makes a good death is not only influenced by expert guidance but is shaped by the contexts of their lived experience, the vocabularies, conceptual frameworks, and narrative and representational resources available to them.Where there is a lack of conversation or cultural discourse around death, individuals are prevented from making genuinely informed choices. 

Therefore, this conference seeks to tackle head on the challenge of talking openly about death, enabling dialogue between experts from different fields, as well as between academics and wider publics, with the aim of augmenting contemporary understandings of dying well. Is it possible for a contextualised discussion of a good death to recover or create new vocabularies, conceptual frameworks and practical strategies for dealing with death and bereavement? It is hoped that this interdisciplinary forum will generate new pathways to inflect the tenor of public debate around dying well, to shape policy, create resources and influence the experience of dying people and those who support them.




 Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) and King's College, Cambridge


Administrative assistance: events@crassh.cam.ac.uk


Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange or book accommodation for registrants. The following websites may be of help:


Day 1 - Thursday 10 January
9.00 - 9.15


9.15 - 9.30

Welcome and Opening

9.30 - 11.00


Simon Woods (Newcastle University)

'A Case for the Good Death'


Mehrunisha Suleman (University of Cambridge)
'Muslim Perspectives on the Ethics of a Good Death'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

Narratives and Representation

Julie Ellis (University of Huddersfield)

'“I Can’t Alter It”: Family Accounts of the Everydayness of Dying'


Ruth Penfold-Mounce (University of York)

'Are you not entertained? Good death in popular culture'

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.00

Keynote and discussion

Steven Luper (Trinity University, Texas)

'Death and Existence'

15.00 - 15.30


15.30 - 17.00


Jonathan Jong (Coventry University)

'Theologising the Fear of Death'


Penny Pritchard (University of Hertfordshire)
'A good death, a better life: Calibrating virtuosity in early modern funeral sermons'

18.00 - 19.15

Public Roundtable Event: What is a Good Death in the 21st Century? (King’s College)

Andrew Hammond (Chaplain, King's College)

Steven Luper (Trinity University, Texas)

Lorraine Moth (Arthur Rank Hospice)

Pantelis Nicola (Wellcome Sanger Institute)

Mehrunisha Suleman (University of Cambridge)

Day 2 - Friday 11 January
9.30 - 11.00


Eric Venbrux (Radboud University)

'Staving off social death, or prolonged dying well'


Emily Knight (Victoria and Albert Museum)
'Commemoration, Consolation and Portraiture'

11.00 - 11.30


11.30 - 13.00

The End of Life

Katarina Stenke (University of Greenwich)

'Mourning and making: Representations of death in eighteenth-century women's verse'


Erica Borgstrom (Open University)

'Good Death from a medical and policy perspective: Creating expectations'

13.00 - 14.00


14.00 - 15.00

Keynote and discussion

Guy Brown (University of Cambridge)

'The Future of Death: How our deaths evolved from digital to analogue, and what we can do about it'

15.00 - 15.30

Final discussion: Future possibilities?

Upcoming Events


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk