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A Home for Death: Welcome from Inaugural Chair Laura Bruns

We created this division to give communication scholars of death and dying a home for their research.

What does it mean to “die at home?” What constitutes a “home?” Home as a place of comfort? A place of family, friends, and connection? Is it a place that one dwells long term, or, a space that one currently inhabits? The concept of having a home is a privilege that many dying persons may lack.

Similar questions permeate our academic discipline of communication studies: where should death and dying communication research be housed? Death is an inescapable part of the human experience. The COVID-19 pandemic brought death to the forefront of our consciousness. And yet, it remains a highly stigmatized topic of conversation and research. Death and dying communication scholars often have trouble finding a “home” for their research, feeling the sting of journal and conference rejection, misfit, and taboo.

In 2021, five early career scholars felt the stigmatization of their research when they had difficulty finding a place for their panel at the National Communication Association. They diverged methodologically, but the papers all shared a common theme and prompted difficult and thought-provoking conversations about death and dying. The panel was rejected citing a divisional misfit. This prompted the group to seek out and build an inclusive academic community that we could openly connect over our mutual interests, regardless of research method or academic discipline.

We created this division to give communication scholars of death and dying a home for their research. One major goal of this division is to facilitate scholarly connection through research interests. We welcome all scholars regardless of publication history or methodology. All that is required to be a part of our new home is a curiosity and interest in death and dying.

As the inaugural Chair, I want to welcome you home to this academic division. We hope that you can be yourself here, explore your death and dying interests, and feel supported by a community of like-minded scholars. We hope you will participate, engage, and connect with us! If you have any questions, ideas, or feedback, do not hesitate to reach out to the leadership!

Laura Bruns, PhD is the inaugural chair of the Death and Dying Division. She is a faculty member in the Department of English Language and Literature at the University of South Carolina.

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