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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.100

Elderly as a teacher - oral histories in the kashubian death education project


  • Dr. Aleksandra KUROWSKA-SUSDORF

Primary authors


Oral history in humanities (pedagogy of memory concept) serves as an educational tool in terms of cross-generational perspectives. "Life lessons" conveyed in narrations prevent from social death or stigmatization and reinforce the notion of the meaningful worth of the old age. The therapeutic function of the oral histories is associated with a temporary cut-away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Oral histories create a context to learn from somebody’s biography where usually an elderly serves as a teacher. The cultural reaction to death is always expressive and provides an opportunity for probing into ethnicity, customs, values, language and generally into nature of human life. Mentioning family stories referring to death and dying traditions and rites may have a healing function (retropathy), understood as "friendly thinking about the past". Kashubian experience of participating in socially engaged death rites such as the wake (Pusto Noc), funeral and post-funeral reception constitute enriching context for death education. The social dimension of the ritual and an openness to share your experiences has a great impact on the community and the sense of self-identity. Traditional approach towards final matters and cultural importance of storytelling in this ethnic group was in the center of the educational project. Interviews (individual and focus) led with over 30 narrators delivered interesting data about not only folk’s death education concept but also shed light on the social importance of the oral histories and cross-generational exchange.