Exploring death and dying through discourse

Al Whitney, Dr. Andre Smith

Abstract


While there is continuous research being done on death and dying, often theoretical abstractions are offered which are removed from the realities of lived experiences. This paper seeks to understand contemporary practices of death and dying, in a Canadian context, through an analysis of the larger discourses which structure our conceptions of death. Guided by an interpretation of Foucault’s genealogical and archaeological methodologies, current practices of death and dying are explored by tracing the history of the discourses that structure these practices, specifically the institution of medicine. This paper reaffirms the need to further explore the heterogeneity of death and dying as cultural experience and examines the ways in which those experiences are influenced by broader discourses that limit the possibility of creating meaning in death in a positive way.


Keywords


biomedicine; death and dying; medicalization; discourse; end of life care

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ISSN 1923-1334 (Online)

University of Victoria