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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 www.bath.ac.uk/cdas. 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.    https://policy.bristoluniversitypress.co.uk/what-death-means-now

- 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.    https://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/death-in-the-modern-world/book255329

I have also helped Civil Ceremonies Ltd http://www.civilceremonies.co.uk/  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.

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