Being, buying and dying: Consumption experiences towards the end of life

Stephanie O'Donohoe, Darach Turley

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In Being and Time, Heidegger (1962) argues that ‘dasein’, or human being-in-the-world, is infused with the ever-present possibility of death, to the extent that being is fundamentally being-towards-death. For those diagnosed with a terminal illness, the sense of being-towards-death is heightened and inescapable. At the same time, many terminally ill people are busy being in the world; they strive to maintain their sense of self and their engagement with the people, routines and things that have mattered to them. As their illness progresses, however, the erosion of physical and emotional energy may lead those who are dying to refine their sense of self and their views about what matters, who matters, and why. In this paper, we draw on several pathographies - book-length accounts of terminal illness - to explore the role of things in these authors’ lives as they move towards death. For Arthur Frank (1995), “[t]he ill person who turns illness into story transforms fate into experience”. We examine things as props in the stories dying people tell themselves and others about who they are, what they are experiencing, and what they value. We discuss how those with terminal illness use goods to highlight, or even create, continuities between past and present selves; to weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life and modulate relationships with family and friends; to maintain a sense of control in the face of change; and even to acknowledge and accommodate change as they move closer to death. Heidegger, M. (1962 [1927]) Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and E.S. Robinson, New York: Harper & Row Frank, A. (1995) The wounded storyteller: body, illness and ethics, Chicago: Chicago University Press
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015
EventSocial Context of Death, Dying and Disposal (DDD12) - 1 December 1918" University of Alba Iulia, Alba Iulia, Romania
Duration: 2 Sept 20155 Sept 2015


ConferenceSocial Context of Death, Dying and Disposal (DDD12)
CityAlba Iulia

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Death; dying; consumption


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