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Sociology of Death and dying


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For your essay you may either choose from one of the questions below or a research essay in your own area of choice. Remember that you need to critically explore the question. All answers should show evidence of informed reading and critical evaluation of what you have read.

Academic peer review references
Ensure that your references are peer-reviewed. Academic peer-review is a process used to ensure that academic work (scholarly books and articles) is evaluated by a number of experts in the discipline to confirm that the necessary academic standards have been met before it is published. Peer review looks at the quality of the scholarship, the accuracy of the work, the relevance to the discipline and its contribution to knowledge. Many on-line and off line publications do not use peer review and may rely on unverified sources or the judgements and opinions of the author. Sites like Wikipedia and other general information sites can be very useful in giving you an overall sense of the topic and leads to verifiable peer-review sites but are not peer-review sites in themselves and at this level of scholarship should not be cited in your references. There is a huge peer review literature associated with the topics in this course and one of the ways you demonstrate scholarship is by finding and using scholarly sources.
How many books/articles should I use?
While a good essay could be written with relatively few references it is important at this level of university study to be able to demonstrate that you are able to locate, identify and effectively use academic resources that align with your topic or question. I would expect a minimum of 6-10 references though some students will draw on significantly more.
Personal experience
The use of personal experience is often valuable in a course of this type but you must ensure that there is a balance between the intellectual, the analytical, the statistical, the discursive and the experiential. All essays should be correctly referenced with a complete bibliography.
Note: I do not mind which referencing system you use but you must be consistent. PLEASE KNOW WHICH REFERENCING SYSTEM YOU ARE USING ON YOUR COVER SHEET.
1. We cannot fully understand our relationship to death by treating it as a discrete component of life that can be separated off from other social phenomena. Look at one culture’s death system and illustrate and analyse the way that the meaning of death has changed over time.
2. Drawing on Ariès discuss the way that death changes over time and relate this to social, political and economic changes.
3. Is Ernest Becker correct in arguing that the terror of death shapes societal attitudes. What are the different emotional and intellectual responses to death and how significant do you think they are?
4. How does religion shape the way we understand death? Explain giving examples from one or more religions. Ensure that you demonstrate the societal effects of belief systems.
5. Norbert Elias discusses what he sees as the special features of contemporary society that shape the image and the way that death is understood in our society. Discuss and critically examine one or more of these features.
6. Why is death ‘the scandal of reason’? Use this answer to critically examine the idea that death in modernity is characterised by an attitude of death denial.
7. Does death in popular culture effectively allow us to examine our own mortality? Discuss drawing on both theory and examples.


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