An Honourable Death

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Date / time: 9 May, All day

Birkbeck, University of London

An Honourable Death

A conference for doctoral candidates and early career researchers.

This one day multi-disciplinary conference explores where and when a positive value has been placed on dying and death. How and why are certain ways of dying admired or even desired? In the name of religion, ideology, nation or emotion, some people have accepted or even sought death. In some instances, the ultimate sacrifice of life is thought to serve the greater social good; such deaths may be seen as honourable, noble and altruistic. Yet placing a positive value on death can be deeply problematic; these deaths are also condemned and regretted. This conference explores the many ways honourable deaths may be lamented, deplored, praised or embraced.

Questions the conference will explore include:

  • What types of death are (or have been) given positive value? In what does their merit lie? Who determines this value and how? Examples might include dying in war; religious martyrdom, deaths in civil and human rights protests; just war; memorials to the dead – literary, physical, ceremonial etc.
  • How and why have ideas about what constitutes a worthy death changed? What do these deaths tell us about the relationship between the social and the personal? Examples might include ‘noble’ Roman suicide, Japanese ritual suicide; sacrificial death; duelling.
  • How has the notion of honourable death been used and abused, for example, in the case of ‘honour’ killing?