Bringing death to life through games and discussion

By Dr Yota Dimitriadi, Institute of Education, University of Reading

The pain and fear of death is a topic that unites us all.

Generous funding by the ESRC is allowing us to put together a community event during the upcoming Festival of Social Science to discuss the unspoken ‘D’ word.

Bringing death to life

Reading is a multi-culturally rich community where celebrations of its diversity are usually initiated in isolation by each ethnic group. At these times of uncertainty and social unrest, as social scientists we are contemplating how we can support community healing, solidarity and celebrate life in sensitive and positive ways.

Inspired by research as well as the folklore and mythology around death, we are offering a carousel of innovative and interactive workshops organised around scholarly themes such as good death, death rituals in urban and rural areas, digital inheritance and data legacy, dark tourism and commodification of death, power relationships and feminist perspectives on traditions and rituals of death.

These key topics of the event will be centred around practical activities that will give our participants space and opportunity to listen, talk and ask questions about the ideas shared. As we are organising this event with families in mind, there is a strong focus on arts, crafts and digital making with the view to engage young people as well in social science research.

There are some aspects of this event that are most probably appropriate for adults. The talks by Lucy Coleman Talbot (researcher, writer and co-founder of the internationally acclaimed ‘Death and the Maiden’ project) and Kevin Toolis (journalist, writer and BAFTA-winning film maker) may lend themselves more to the palates of adult audiences. Others, such as Jazmine Miles-Long’s interactive talk on ethical taxidermy are offered for adults and younger people.

We will be signposting our workshops with three levels in mind:

  • Level 1(un-scary): aimed for younger audiences: celebrating life and reflecting on oral histories about death; exploring ideas around social death through workshops and crafts
  • Level 2 (moderately scary): discussing the idea of ‘good death’ in urban and rural settings through workshops and talks
  • Level 3 (quite scary) Exploring ideas around digital inheritance, politics of death and reflecting on death planning through games

Another super exciting aspect of this event is that it is an example of the collaborative activities between university tutors and university students that take place at the Institute of Education. We are delighted that we worked together with our students to organise and provide these evidence-based activities. Most of our workshops will be also facilitated by lecturers and pre-service teachers on the Secondary Initial Teacher Education programme.

So, join us on 10 November at the Institute of Education and at The MERL to play 3D hangman, enjoy 3D printing, screen printing and badgemaking, walk the labyrinth and meet the ferryman at the interactive MERL tours among many other activities.

Some events are already fully booked so advance booking for other events is recommended at deathliteracy.eventbrite.co.uk.

You can also join the discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #uordeathliteracy

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