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History

Origin Story

In 2020, Laura Bruns and Colleen Campbell Pendleton collaborated on a death-centered panel for the National Communication Association Conference (Health Communication Division), along with 3 other scholars. This panel was ultimately rejected by the conference, echoing a number of past rejections from scholars with similar sites of study, around the subject of death. One reviewer for the panel excitedly gave the quality of the panel a 10, stating, “WOW!!! This panel is the most diverse I have seen. I cannot wait to attend this session.” Reviewer number 2, on the other hand, found the panel inappropriate and underwhelming, saying, “With a broad and somewhat unfocused approach to this topic, I would have liked the panelists to be clearer about whether they are planning to present original research, and through the use of which methods.” For end-of-life and death-centered scholars who have never quite ‘fit’ in time-honored, established conference divisions, this dualistic feedback (ranging from excited/intrigued to utterly befuddled) is a common experience.

 

In general, death and dying scholars frequently face this kind of excitement about their research topic coupled with disdain for the interdisciplinarity of their research methods. Centering death subjects, rather than framing death as a consequence (rhetorically speaking), is often met with pushback. We’re not quite health, gerontology, organizational, or interpersonal, yet we utilize all these approaches and methodologies in our research. Death is messy. Researching death is messy; it is interdisciplinary, methodologically diverse, and notoriously difficult to categorize in human-centered academic scholarship. But researching death is a valid, valuable, and essential part of communication and communication-adjacent research.

 

Following this rejection, Laura and Colleen sought to establish a group where death and dying scholars could feel supported and validated for their work and collaborate to create a space of recognition for their scholarship as part of the communication discipline.

 

A Facebook group, EOL and Death Scholars, was created in September, 2021 that garnered immediate popularity and growth, gaining over 85 members in a 2-month time span. Outreach for the EOL and Death Scholars group quickly established a community of over a hundred academics and scholars who came together to share resources and ideas about death and dying related research.

 

In November, 2021 Laura and Colleen organized the first digital meeting of the "EOL and Death Scholars" online, connecting scholars from across the nation to discuss the state of death and dying research in the field of communication. Since our first meeting, we have grown our leadership team from two death and dying scholars to an organizational leadership and web development team, who actively archives death and dying research, established several working groups to organize research projects and conference panels, and organized a professional network that puts death and dying scholars in conversation with other intellectuals who share their ideals and interests so as to stimulate collaboration.

Tombstones for Sale

Results

End-of-Life and Death Scholars - Nonprofit

The nonprofit was born out of a need to connect scholars to opportunities to collaborate, share, and produce new research. Read more...

Death & Dying Division - National Communication Association

The official NCA division resulted from 2 years of organizing labor by scholars in the End-of-Life and Death Scholars nonprofit as a space and place to annually meet, in person. Read more...

Organizational Timeline

2021

  • First Meet-and-Greet of End-of-Life and Death Scholars
    | Seattle, WA

  • Private Facebook Group is established

  • Petition for official Death and Dying Division at NCA begins

  • Quarterly organizational Zoom meetings begin

 

2022

  • Executive Board forms

  • Web Management Team forms

  • Discord internal communication begins

  • Organizational policy documentation begins

  • Representation at various conferences increases on paper and discussion panels

  • First official community event (New Orleans Cemetery Tour) occurs

  • Website launches

  • Membership grows to 180 participants

 

2023

  • End-of-Life and Death Scholars began to form non-profit documentation

  • Membership grows to 200+ participants

  • Asana workflow and project management begins

  • The Death and Dying Division is under review in November at NCA

  • The Death and Dying Division was accepted as an official NCA Division

 

2024

  • TBD!

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Year One Founders (2021)

Founding Members:

  • Laura Bruns

  • Colleen Campbell Pendleton

  • Stephenson Brooks Whitestone 

  • Cheyenne Zaremba

  • Heather Smith

  • Jessica Cherry

  • Mike Alvarez

  • Geoffrey Luurs

  • Howard Rodriguez-Mori

  • Amanda Cooper

Year One Working Group Organizers:

  • Reilly Card

  • Jeannine Foster

  • Cheyenne Zaremba

  • C. Campbell Pendleton 

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