Death is not simply a philosophical, theological, or existential challenge. It’s an unknowable event in which multiple strands of life converge.Medicine claims jurisdiction over the dead body, yet religion too asserts the rights of mourning.The state emphasizes its power to kill and control, while the oppressed work to establish a new politics of death.No single vocabulary exhausts death’s power—as the boundary of life death continually eludes and entices human beings and institutions.
This year, Science, Religion, and Culture explores the many meanings of death through four events. Each aims to investigate death’s wider significance, and to place death within unexpected and unconventional contexts.
Nov 20: Panel, A History of Death
Thursday, 6:20PM, Thompson Room, Barker Center
Hollis Professor of Divinity
Professor of South Asian Religions
Richard T. Watson Assistant Professor of Science and Religion
Professor of History
moderated by Katharine Park
Samuel Zemurray, Jr. and Doris Zemurray Stone Radcliffe Professor of the History of Science
Death and the dead body have always played the role of political battleground.Yet death’s fraught relationship with the political has not remained constant through time—pre-modern responses to death differ drastically from those of the present day.Death Politics I chronicles the place of death in pre-modern history and works to trace the intersections of politics and death across religious and cultural boundaries.A screening of The Seventh Seal will follow a panel discussion.
Mar 5: (Un)Familiar Deaths: Politics of Death and Dying in the Contemporary World
Thursday, Memorial Church
Charles Augustus Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology, Union Theological Seminary
Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Christian Thought
In modern America, death and politics are inextricable.Mourning, state violence, loss—these do not simply reflect today’s political conflicts, they drive them.Death Politics II confronts the painful role that death plays in modern politics, and in particular notes the proximity of death to questions of race, sexuality, religion, and marginalization.It is an essential conversation in order to create a new, more just society.
Apr 9: Care at the End of Life
Visiting Scholar, The Center for Religion and Media, NYU
End of Life care addresses a practical challenge: everyone must die and hopes to do so in a comfortable and respectful way.But it also responds to other tense questions: for instance, how does one distribute care in a society riven by economic and social disparity?Care at the End of Life examines current attitudes and obstacles to dying well.A screening of How to Die in Oregonwill follow a panel discussion.
May 7: Dead Futures
How do we mourn in an unstable world?Resource shortages demand that we reconsider our methods of remembrance; political conflicts ask that we memorialize ethically; changing customs suggest that past rituals may soon lose their power.Dead Futures pairs a discussion along with an exhibition of art and design to imagine the future of mourning and death.