Five members of our team attended the 15th international conference on the Social Context of Death, Dying and Disposal (DDD15), which was held online from 1st – 4th September 2021. In this blog, we share the updates on work in progress that we presented at the conference.
We presented together in a panel session dedicated to the Care in Funerals project. Abi Pattenden served as session moderator and set a warm, welcoming tone as people came into the online room. Arnar Árnason provided an introduction that explained the background and aims of our project, noted how the project’s conception during the COVID-19 pandemic had somewhat constrained our methodological choices, and provided an overview of the various elements of the project and presentations to follow.
Jennie Riley’s presentation drew on the interview data we have generated with participants to date, using a selection of quotations to illustrate something of the diversity of people’s experiences of the various restrictions and workarounds that have been in play during the pandemic. Summed up by the phrase ‘a gift and a thief’, as offered by one of the people we interviewed, Jennie pointed out that although the circumstances of funeral provision during the pandemic have generated significant distress, people have sometimes been able to see ‘silver linings’ and make or find ways of seeing the funerals they arranged or attended as good – at least ‘good in the circumstances’.
Paolo Maccagno followed with a presentation that shared some of his ideas in progress about the imposition of limits and the different ways this can be done. Paolo reflected on the use of numbers, illustrating some of the experienced implications of limits placed on the numbers of people who can attend funerals and the amount of time allocated for funeral services or burial slots. He also provided examples of some of the more creative ways in which restrictions have been navigated, suggesting these might help inform restrictions that it might be necessary to introduce in the future.
Vikki Entwistle concluded with a presentation about the Care in Funerals ethics case book. She explained the rationale and plans for this educational resource and outlined our progress to date. The presentation included mention of some of the questions we are grappling with as we develop the case book, including whether and how we use photographs of people to provide visual image of composite characters, and to what extent examples should be explicitly pandemic-related if we want the case book to have broad and enduring relevance for thinking about what really matters to people in relation to funerals. Stressing that the case book will need to be robustly peer reviewed and include reflective commentaries from diverse perspectives, Vikki invited expressions of interest in collaborating, including beyond the panel discussion.
The panel was well attended and the Q&A session at the end, ably chaired by Abi, included welcome expressions of encouragement as well as questions that helped us think further about our data and analysis – as well as future research!
You can read some reflections on what we heard here.
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