Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Globalizing Palliative Care? A Multi-sited Ethnographic Study of Practices, Policies and Discourses of Care at the End of Life

This project investigates the globalization and cultural mediation of palliative care practices, policies and discourses. Palliative care is a professional form of end-of-life care. It’s development is relatively recent, and started in the UK in the 1960s. It has rapidly gained traction in high-income countries, where it has broadly become associated with a good death.

2020 - 2025
Annemarie Samuels
European Research Council Starting Grant European Research Council Starting Grant

Significant pockets of palliative care provision have also been developing in middle and lower-income countries over the last decades and currently attention to the global implementation of palliative care services is increasing, amongst others through the discourse of universal human rights. At the same time, anthropologists studying death and dying have long noted the global cultural diversity of end-of-life care practices. In light of this diversity, we seek to better understand how palliative care does or does not translate and travel across diverse contexts.

Central questions

Our central questions are: How do global palliative care practices translate to various cultural contexts and transform local notions of death and dying? And how, in turn, do culturally diverse practices of end-of-life care impact the practice of palliative care? How is end of life care provided locally?

Brazil, India and Indonesia

This project addresses these questions by using a qualitative ethnographic and comparative approach. We study palliative care discourses and policies as well as end-of-life practices in three countries with emerging palliative care services: Brazil, India and Indonesia. Our subprojects look at the articulation and global mobility of palliative care discourses, policies and models, national level institutional care assemblages and the care trajectories of patients and their immediate caregivers.

Aiming to generate critical knowledge

The project’s comparative approach and qualitative empirical detail is aimed to generate critical knowledge of processes of professionalizing end-of-life care that will contribute both to scientific theory on the universality and cultural specificity of dying and to the improvement of global end-of-life care services.

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