Netherlands, Nijmegen

Death and Meaning Making in Europe

when 8 August 2016 - 12 August 2016
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 ECTS
fee EUR 450

Death is expected to play an increasing role in the European societies of the near future, due to factors like aging populations, early diagnosis coupled with prolonged dying, rampant individualism, greater physical and social mobility, environmental degradation and, most recently, the threat of terrorism or a pandemic. Furthermore, end-of-life decisions have become a hotly debated issue. Traditional meaning systems crumble, new and more personalised forms of religiosity arise. Cremations are on the rise while cemeteries have difficulty to remain .

This confrontation with death and dying is revealing, as it shows the most important cultural values by which people live their lives how their experiences are conveyed and enacted in concrete practices. The study of death practices not only discloses meaning, but also offers insights into meaning making and creating community. Meaning making in relation to death also reveals what people consider most- important in life.

The Netherlands offers a distinctive context in this respect, as there is a massive decline here in traditional ways of coping with death, dying and disposal, due to increasing secularisation and individualisation. At the same time a tremendous creativity is emerging. This provides interesting and fruitful perspectives on changing European ways of dealing with death.

These new developments ask for a multidisciplinary approach in the research on personal, social, cultural, and religious aspects of death, dying and bereavement, which been developed by the Centre for Thanatology, part of Radboud University's Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies.

In this course you will be introduced to the multidisciplinary study of death and dying, its historical and cultural aspects, its rituals and beliefs, in Europe and the Netherlands in particular. The course will include a short introduction into the history of death and dying and case studies on death practices among Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Neo-pagans, and non-believers. Changing beliefs concerning the afterlife, the post-self, and reincarnation will be also be discussed. You will find out more about new ways of dealing with death and mourning in present day Dutch art and literature.

During the week there will be a guided tour to a cemetery and a crematorium.

Course leader

Prof. Dr Peter Nissen
Professor of Spirituality Studies
Radboud University,

Prof. Dr Eric Venbrux
Professor of Comparative Religious Studies
Radboud University

Target group

This course is designed for Advanced Bachelor, Master and PhD students in the Humanities with a strong interest in changing cultural attitudes towards death and dying and in the transformation of religion, spirituality, and meaning making in Europe.

Course aim

After this course you are able to:
- Interpret present-day practices concerning death and dying as the result of recent historical developments and of changing patterns of meaning
- Analyse the structure and the levels of meaning in rituals of death and disposal
distinguish the main types of dealing with death and dying in Europe
- Relate the changing practices to the transformation of religion and spirituality in Europe

Fee info

EUR 450: The course fee includes the registration fee, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.

Discounts
10% discount for early bird applicants. The early bird deadline is 1 April 2016
15% discount for students and PhD candidates from partner universities
EUR 195: Housing (optional)