"Our soul is just an urn where we close, once and for all, the ashes of our lost passions !"

duminică, 13 decembrie 2009

Proceedings of Dying and Death in 18th-21st Century Europe, International Conference, second edition, Alba Iulia, Romania, 25-27 September 2009


The Second Breathing: Some Impressions at the Opening Ceremony of Dying and Death in 18th-21rt century Europe, International Conference, second edition

Last month I organized together with my colleagues and friends from the National Museum of Unification, Alba Iulia a conference on Alcoholism: Historical and Social Issues. It was a great experience for us and all the attendees declared it was a successful and inspiring conference. But after a while, thinking about it, a very strange feeling began running through my head, just like a wild spring river: I felt guilty because I had betrayed my very close research interest: dying and death. Once more I understood in those moments how strong my personal bonds to this subject were. Furthermore, I understood with my heartbeats how important the stability in researching a topic was and how this stability brought me success and tranquility. In this manner, knowing that the following edition of Dying and Death in 18th-21st century Europe would take place very soon, that strange feeling of having betrayed my topic turned into a warm and nutritious feeling of coming home.
I’m a historian and in my opinion, the connection between history, as a science, and death, as an event, is intrinsic, due to three particular reasons:
(1) A historical inquiry into past realities is a type of funeral; after analysis and a series of conclusions, the past realities are buried.
(2) Without death, there would be no history; in a more general perspective, history is a science dealing with the actions of the dead rather than of the living. In one of his essays, Carl Haub, the demographer, estimated that 106 billion people have been born into the world since its beginnings and 6 billion are currently alive. Hence, historians are special scientists as they are the only ones to systematically deal with all those who died at different moments in time.
(3) Death is a particular research subject to the historian; death is an eternal event and can lead to an analysis of collective attitudes and behaviours people have experienced across the ages. As a result, if the dead have dignity and deserve respect, historians are the scientific category entitled to represent them.
This is just a possible explanation of the relevance of dying and death issues for a historian and I’m sure that any scientist attending this conference could say more about it.
As this is the second edition of the conference, the main question is the following: what is new this time? There is a very simple answer to this question: there are new people, new topics, and new plans. For this reason I’m grateful to all the participants at this conference and to all the people who understand the relevance of this idea and support it. Special thanks to those participants who came back to Romania for this conference: Peter Jupp, Tony Walter, Emilie Jaworski and Joanna Wojtkoviak. But my deepest hope regarding this edition is to organize RADS (the Romanian Association for Death Studies) as the best streamline for guiding death studies in Romania. I believe RADS is necessary because it brings us together into an organized network in order to improve studies in this field in Romania.
Looking through the conference programme, I have noticed the complexity of the sessions and, especially the quality of the presented papers, which fills me with energy. We will talk about topics such as history of death, religion, cemeteries, cremation, culture and death, suicide, diseases and so on but first of all, about the hopes and death as our final future. Like a wild wind, the famous words of Cesare Pavese have come to my mind: Death is repose, but the thought of death disturbs all repose.
I would like to believe that we can save the world from death through this conference but I know, as everybody from this room already knows, that this is impossible: death is an eternal event which cannot lose its freshness although we have been dying since the beginnings of time. But such an unpleasant situation shows the relevance, the importance of this conference especially here in Romania where we have much specificity in our death system. So, no more silence upon death in Romania and I would like to believe that after our conference and after organizing RADS, this topic will be understood in Romania much better than before.
One of the most important poets in present day Romania once said: Death is but a young widow eager for unexpected, total and complete encounters with me. With his words in our mind, having our heartbeats prepared to be in tune with the music of dying and death, I'm very happy to be here with you today! Our time is here and now! Thank you!

Marius Rotar

These are the proceedings of Dying and Death in 18th-21rt century Europe, International Conference, second edition organized by National Museum of Unification Alba Iulia and “1 Decembrie 1918” University of Alba Iulia. The partners of this event were National Authority for Scientific Research (ANCS – Romania) and Direction for Culture, Cults and National-Cultural Heritage of Alba County. There were 36 participants from seven countries (UK, France, Serbia, Hungary, Poland, the Netherlands and Romania). The conference was organized in six sections: Cemeteries and their Destiny; Cremation and Scattering the Ashes; Religion and the Meaning of Death, History of Death; Places of Dead, Rites of death and Culture and Death. Unfortunately not all participants sent us their full papers to publish in these proceedings. The next edition of the conference will take place either in July or September 2009. The call for papers will come out in December 2009. You are welcome to our conference!

Marius Rotar
Tudor Roşu
Helen Frisby

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