Death is the future. Death is always the future.
Dr John Troyer will be discussing the future of our relationship with death at FutureFest.
For a long time, the story goes, we twenty-first century humans supported a post-Victorian death-denying culture, and we continue to be dominated by it even today. Thus the image of the late twentieth century/early twenty-first century death-denying prude is emblazoned on our restrained and mute denials of death. So this epic story goes and is repeated on a daily basis. Indeed, it seems far easier to present the death-is-now-denied-and-repressed thesis while making nostalgic gestures towards the Victorians than actually discussing death.
But if everyone is discussing how death is repressed and denied, then aren’t we still talking about death? In fact, we humans love to talk about death. Future Love and the future death are inextricably connected as we modern humans persistently find new tools to mourn, grieve, and remember the beloved dead.
Given that death is the future, a new 21st century approach to death, dying, and the dead body is only possible if we first world humans reject the denial and repression thesis and come to understand our increasingly technologically mediated mortality. The future of death is much less about whether or not it can be ‘cured.’ The real question is whether and if that scenario is desirable given the equally unstoppable force produced by changes to how we humans experience the immediacy of loss in Future Love.
Dr John Troyer is the Director of the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.
His interdisciplinary research focuses on contemporary memorialisation practices, post-mortem bioethics, and the dead body’s relationship with technology. Dr Troyer is also a theatre director and installation artist with extensive experience in site-specific performance across the United States and Europe.
He is a co-founder of the Death Reference Desk and the Future Cemetery Project, and he is a frequent commentator for the BBC.