Thursday, 11 January 2018

Death & Culture II Conference (Registration Open)

6-7 September 2018, 9.00am

How does culture understand death?

This biennial conference focuses on the impact of mortality on culture, and the ways in which the very fact of death has shaped human behaviour, evidenced through thought, action, production and expression. The conference, in its second iteration, seeks to continue engaging with the study of mortality as an academic enterprise, supported by evidence and framed by theoretical engagement. This truly interdisciplinary event brings together death scholars, including postgraduates, as well as those who might not consider themselves death scholars whose work that overlaps with death and the dead.
We welcome contributions on topics such as but not limited to:
  • Governance of mortality
  • Death in the popular imagination
  • Death and the digital realm
  • Work in the death industry
  • Mass death in the age of individualism
  • Artistic death

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Dina Khapaeva
  • Professor Dorthe Refslund Christensen
  • Professor Joanna Bourke
  • Professor Stephen Regan 
This event will launch a new associated book series, Emerald Studies in Death and Culture
Location: University of York, Ron Cooke Hub
Admission: Registration OPEN

Imagining the History of the Future: Unsettling Scientific Stories (3 Days) Registration Open

Tuesday 27-29 March 2018, 9.00 am - 5:00 pm

Speakers:Professor Sherryl Vint (University of California, Riverside, USA)
Professor Charlotte Sleigh (University of Kent, UK)

The future just isn’t what it used to be… not least because people keep changing it. Recent years have seen a significant growth of academic and public interest in the role of the sciences in creating and sustaining both imagined and enacted futures. Technological innovations and emergent theoretical paradigms gel and jolt against abiding ecological, social, medical or economic concerns: researchers, novelists, cartoonists, civil servants, business leaders and politicians assess and estimate the costs of planning for or mitigating likely consequences. The trouble is that thinking about the future is a matter of perspective: where you decide to stand constrains what you can see.

With confirmed plenary speakers Professor Sherryl Vint (University of California, Riverside, USA) and Professor Charlotte Sleigh (University of Kent, UK) this three-day conference will bring together scholars, practitioners, and activists to explore ways in which different visions of the future and its history can be brought into productive dialogue.

Focused on the long technological 20th Century (roughly, 1887-2007) and looking particularly at the intersections between fictional/narrative constructions of the future, expert knowledge, and institutional policy development, the themes of the conference will include but are not limited to:
  • The relationship between lay and expert futures, especially futures produced by communities marginalised in public dialogue by ethnicity, gender, sexuality, species or political orientation
  • How have different forms of fiction (novels, films, games, comics) created different visions of what’s to come? How have their audiences responded to and shaped them?
  • The role of counterfactuals/alternate histories, as well as factional accounts and popular science: how have different forms of writing positioned the future?
  • What’s the relationship between past and present scenario planning in government or commerce? How have they fed into wider cultural conceptions of impending developments?
  • Disciplinary influences: how have different academic disciplines – sciences, humanities, arts, social sciences – fed into developing futures? Has this changed over time?
  • The role of futures past: how can we recover them, and what do they tell us about futures present? What are the forgotten or marginalised sites of future-making
  • How have different themes – time, the apocalypse, the individual, among others – changed over the last century of future-thinking?
Website: @UnSetSciStories #ImaginedFutures


Location: Ron Cooke Hub, University of York
Registration: NOW OPEN

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Future Sociology – PhD at York (2)

Daniel Robins on Necro-Waste
I am just approaching the end of my first year as a Sociology PhD student here at York. I have two fantastic supervisors: Ruth Penfold-Mounce and David Beer, whom I have been working closely with to develop my project on necro-waste. I did not start with the concept; it just found me about two months in. It affirmed to me that a PhD is always in progress, always amenable to change.
My research focuses on this idea of necro-waste, which is essentially the analogy of corpse parts as waste. By drawing on theories of value, I am exploring the value attached to and generated out of necro-waste as it passes through the UK Death Industry. It’s highlighted at three stages.  The first of these is the gatekeeping stage. This is where the necro-waste is prepared for disposal by the funeral director. Two methods of disposal are then explored; disposal through cremation and disposal through natural burial. This is because these produce two different types of waste; dry waste and wet waste. Each of these offers the opportunity for the necro-waste to be commemorated. As such, the third stage focuses on the artists that reuse cremated remains in these commemorative rituals. This stage also explores what becomes of the natural burial ground.
In the background, I have also been writing through some ideas. I recently published a piece for Discover Society, where I conceptualise Ian Brady’s remains as akin to radioactive waste, otherwise known as ‘toxic necro-waste’. The SATSU department here at York also provides PhD students with a lot of opportunities. I was able to extend these thoughts and write them on the SATSU Threshold blog. Each of these encouraged me to write an article on the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, where I discuss toxic necro-waste further. I understand it as a concept that can be used to further extend the study of necro-waste.
Writing these has helped me as a PhD student in a couple of ways. First, as the PhD is always in progress, it’s helped me to develop some of the ideas in my thesis. Second, it’s provided content, along with my research, to discuss at conferences through both talks and networking with fellow death researchers. Last, it's helped build my confidence as an academic and develop my writing.
I am trying to treat my PhD as an apprenticeship and am actively seeking as many opportunities as I can. I am on the board of studies, and am working with other Sociology PhD students to develop this year’s York Sociology Postgraduate Conference on ‘embodiment’. I also teach two seminar classes on the first year undergraduate module ‘Introducing Social Psychology’, which I really enjoy. So, it’s been a busy, but excellent year.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Future Sociology – PhD at York (1)

Bethany Robertson on Women in Farming

As a farmer's daughter I've always been interested in the position of women in agriculture which led to understanding the gender identities of women farming in Norfolk for my undergraduate dissertation. For my PhD studies, I'm widening the scope beyond Norfolk by making comparison to the Yorkshire region. Hopefully, this will help understand the experiences of women working in a variety of agricultural contexts including arable and livestock based. Growing up on a farm inspired me to pursue this research and offers a means of contributing to rural communities other than by working on my family’s farm.

My PhD research considers the diverse experiences of women in farming beyond the assumption of a ‘farmer’s wife’ by speaking to women who farm and are from a variety of backgrounds, ages and farm types. We tend to think of farmers under the rubric of the 'family farm' but I will learn about the experiences from new entrants or those who have entered the sector as a career change too. I hope to build up a picture of women’s involvement in farming land and livestock which challenges the stereotypical view and considers how the identity of farmers has changed. The rationale for my PhD research is summed up in a piece I wrote for The Conversation recently.

I’m in the second year of my PhD, and working on the most exciting but scary part of the process: fieldwork. In my case, this means literally getting out into the fields as I travel across Norfolk and Yorkshire to interview women who farm. It’s one of my favourite parts of sociological research; going out to listen to people’s stories. It’s especially important in terms of my PhD topic as part of my motivation is to make the social issues affecting rural communities heard in a university culture that seems to prioritise ‘the urban’.

On the days when I want a break from my PhD, I get involved with some of the other activities going on in the department to develop my related interest of human-animal relations. For example, I’ve recently spoken at Thresholds symposium and will be leading a reading group session about pet death soon. I’m also a seminar tutor for first year students which is not only a great experience in learning the mechanics of university teaching, but immerses me in areas of sociology which aren’t part of my PhD.

You can read more about my interests from the sociological snippets on my blog:

Death & Culture II Conference (Registration Open)

6-7 September 2018, 9.00 am How does culture understand death? This biennial conference focuses on the impact of mortality on cult...