Center for Qualitative Studies


Symposium on Cultural, Existential and Phenomenological Dimensions of Bereavement

This symposium is intended to be a forum for interdisciplinary perspectives on the intersections between the cultural, existential and phenomenological dimensions of grief and bereavement. The symposium takes place in Copenhagen.


11.11.2019 - 12.11.2019


As Peter Berger famously argued, “every human society is, in the last resort, men banded together in the face of death.” Individually as well as culturally, human existence is structured by the awareness of our mortality. This not only holds true concerning the horizon of one’s own life, as a great many existentialist authors have emphasised, but death equally structures our relations to significant Others. Our vulnerability in the face of death is a precondition for love and commitment. Hence, in so far as we form relations and attachments, we are exposed to the suffering from loss. Being human means being vulnerable to loss, and as such grief is a universal human phenomenon. However, the cultural practices and beliefs surrounding death and bereavement vary profoundly across history and culture, giving shape to substantial variation in terms of how people in different cultural settings relate to and experience loss.

This symposium is intended to be a forum for interdisciplinary perspectives on the intersections between the cultural, existential and phenomenological dimensions of grief and bereavement. Specifically, we aim to shed light on the constitutive role of grief and bereavement in all human life, and not only derivatively, as a matter of pathology. Themes to be addressed include the following:

  • What characterises the experience of the death of the Other?
  • What, if anything, is specific to the experience of bereavement?
  • What are the dynamics and points of transfer between sociogenesis and ontogenesis in grief, and how may these be analysed?
  • What is the importance of cultural practices and beliefs in mediating processes of grief?
  • What are the current conditions of possibility for grieving in Western cultures?

The symposium is arranged as part of the research project The Culture of Grief at Aalborg University, Denmark. The aim is to create a small-scale symposium with leading researchers in the field in order to encourage joint conversation and discussion. The symposium will be open to a limited public audience.


Dr. Dennis Klass, professor emeritus, Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri (US)

Dr. Kathleen Higgins, professor of philosophy, University of Texas at Austin (US)

Dr. Thomas Attig, professor emeritus of philosophy from Bowling Green State University, independent applied philosopher and author (US)

Dr. Kirsten Jacobson, professor of philosophy, University of Maine (US)

Dr. Tony Walter, professor emeritus of Death Studies, University of Bath (UK)

Dr. Leeat Granek, Associate Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, Faculty of Health, York University in Toronto, Canada.

Dr. Thomas Fuchs, Professor of Philosophy and Psychiatry, Universität Heidelberg (Germany)

Dr. Edith Maria Steffen, senior lecturer in counselling psychology, University of Roehampton (UK)

Dr. Matthew Ratcliffe, professor of philosophy, University of York (UK)


more information

For information concerning the content and scope of the symposium, please contact Allan Køster ( or Ester H. Kofod (

Questions concerning registration, venue etc. can be directed to Charlotte Hyldgaard (


Price: 750 DKK

Registration is closed!




09:30-10:00: Arrival, registration (Coffee, croissants/fruit)

10:00-10:15 Welcome

10:15-10:45: Svend Brinkmann: The Culture of Grief: Framing

10:45-11:45: Dennis Klass: Themes in Continuing Bonds: Cultural, Existential, and Phenomenological

Break 15 min

12:00-13:00: Leeat Granek: Gender Dynamics and Gendered Expectations on Expression of Grief

13:00-14:00: Lunch

14:00-15:00: Matthew Ratcliffe: Some Phenomenological Reflections on Bereavement Hallucinations and Continuing Bonds

15:00-16:00: Kathleen Higgins: Haunted Spaces, Forlorn Objects – Aesthetics as a Way of Coping

16:00-16:15: Break: coffee/cake

16:15-17:15: Moderated discussion (Discussant: Svend Brinkmann)

17.15-17.30: Wrapping up



08:30-09:00: Welcome (Coffee, croissants/fruit)

09:00-10:00: Thomas Fuchs: Mourning, Melancholy, and Depression. An Existential Phenomenology of Reactions to Transience

10:00-11:00: Kirsten Jacobson: Grief and the Photograph: A Phenomenology of Captured Time and Its Resonances with Death

11:00-11:15: Break

11:15-12:15: Thomas Attig: Phenomenological Perspectives on Contemporary Grief Theory

12:15-13:15 Lunch

13:15-14:15: Tony Walter: Finding solace in nature – a protestant/secular sensibility?

14:15-15:15: Edith Steffen: Sensory and quasi-sensory experiences of deceased loved ones (SED) and meaning making

15:15-15:30: Break (coffee/cake)

15:30-16:30: Moderated discussion: What have we learned, and where do we go from here? (Discussant: Brady Wagoner)

16:30-17:00: Farewells and continued bonds



Aalborg University Copenhagen, A. C. Meyers Vænge 15 2450 Copenhagen SV, Denmark

Sorgens kultur