Personal profile

Research interests

I was a freelance scholar from 1975 - 1994, writing books on the treatment of young offenders, religion and society, landscape, unemployment, social security, basic income, and the concept of need.

On re-entering academia in 1994, I worked as Lecturer, then Reader, in Sociology at the University of Reading. Since 2006, I have been Professor of Death Studies at the University of Bath, including four years (2011-15) as director of the Centre for Death & Society At both universities I set up and directed a Masters course in Death & Society.

Since the early 1990s, my writing and lecturing have focussed on developing a sociological understanding of death in modern society. In this, I have collaborated with colleagues in religious studies, history, archaeology, linguistics, psychology, geography, computer science, medicine, social work, and gerontology. Research areas have included: 

  • funerals
  • pilgrimage
  • afterlife beliefs
  • personal bereavement and public mourning
  • the portrayal of death in the news media
  • collective memory
  • human remains in museums
  • end of life care and neo-liberalism
  • discourses of spirituality
  • social networks at the end of life
  • mediations between the living and the dead
  • how the internet shapes dying and grieving.
  • the role of angels in mourning
  • space and place

My most recent books are:

- What Death Means Now (Polity Press, 2017). This short-form book discusses contemporary issues in death, dying, funerals and bereavement.

- Death in the Modern World (Sage, 2020). This global book focusses on national, cultural and environmental variations in how death is managed in the modern world.

I have also helped Civil Ceremonies Ltd  and the Church of England to provide funeral training for celebrants and clergy.

My current interest is the climate/ecological emergency and the death of species, including our own, to which it points and that it seeks to avert.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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