Agents of de-differentiation: Women carers of the dying

Þann 10. apríl flutti Terhi Utriainen, dósent við háskólann í Helsinki í samanburðar-trúarbragðafræðum og gestakennari við HÍ á vegum RIKK, fyrirlesturinn Agents of de-differentiation: Women carers of the dying.


Secularization and segmentation of the body are important aspects of modernity. One of the important separations within modernity has been that between medicine and religion, and this separation bears important implications to the care of dying people. One of these implications is that the body of the dying person has been delegated to medical specialists and the soul to religious ones. This segmentation and division of labour have, however, started to receive ever more criticism during last decades.

British sociologist of religion Grace Davie has introduced the concept ‘de-differentiation of the person’ in order to catch phenomena whereby modernity turns critically towards its tendency of increasing segmentation and specialization. One example of de-differentiation is hospice movement with its women carers. Working and acting in the liminal space between doctor and pastor women carers combine spiritual and corporal care. Women carers thus become important late- or postmodern, and even post-secular, agents who, both in their words and deeds, try to bring together what modernity has separated. This act of bringing together (which is often referred to as “holism”) is, moreover, understood by some of them as restoration of traditional holiness broken by modernity. But is this an opportunity or rather a trap to women?