Seeing the difference: conversations on death, dying
Caregivers, campus experts offer insights in Townsend Center video, May 29

08 May 2002 |

The campus and public are invited to join a screening and discussion of a new video on death and dying — “Seeing the Difference: Conversations on Death and Dying” — at 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 29, in the Geballe Room at the Townsend Center for the Humanities, 220 Stephens Hall.

The 50-minute video offers an innovative look at a difficult and complex topic, with segments of conversation from artists, humanists and medical professionals, who met for a two-day conference on the Berkeley campus in June 2000.

“I wanted to capture in the video the essence of the conversations we had at our conference, because I think they can provide some ways of understanding or at least thinking about death and dying,” said Townsend Center Associate Director Christina Gillis, who organized the June 2000 conference.

“This was a group of enormously talented and articulate people in different caregiving professions,” she said. “They were able to offer insights that could be beneficial to those who are going through the death of a family member or friend.”

“Seeing the Difference” is intended to be of value in health care settings and to researchers and practitioners in the fields of aging, bereavement studies, literary and arts practice, and criticism (bioethics). But the project as a whole occupies no single category, said Gillis, who hopes it will become a catalyst for discussion in many fields and settings in which people take up questions of death and dying.

“The whole focus is to ask how people interpret death,” she said. “How do we deal with loss and emptiness?”

The question seems particularly timely in the wake of last fall’s terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. “After Sept. 11, this question came up time and time again, from people who had lost family, relatives and friends in a very terrifying manner,” Gillis said.

But death, in whatever way it comes, is never a new topic. Gillis emphasized that the conference, held more than a year before Sept. 11, had brought together a group of caregivers to discuss ways of “seeing the difference between life and death.”

Participants in the video include UC Davis English professor Sandra Gilbert; award-winning photographer Jim Goldberg; pathologist Frank Gonzalez-Crussi; oncologist Debu Tripathy; historian Tom Cole; physician Guy Micco of the School of Public Health; and Assistant Professor Jodi Halpern, a bioethicist, to name a few. Click on the link below for a video and full text of the conference proceedings.

Following the May 29 campus screening, Gillis will lead a discussion of the video. She will be joined by Patricia Benner, a registered nurse in physiological nursing at UC San Francisco; Elizabeth Dungan, a professor of art history at Berkeley; and Jodi Halpern of the UC Berkeley/UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program.


Video and full text of the conference proceedings


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