Coffee and Death

  • Jack Fong


This chapter introduces the Death Café phenomenon, of which my work conceptualizes as an existential and transformative social movement. The chapter examines, among other things, the history of the Death Café, its global proliferation, and key activists in the movement. The chapter also examines these regular gatherings of primarily nonterminally ill Baby Boomers, their “vibes,” and how they unpack their orientations toward mortality over a healthy meal, drinks, and deserts. In such environments, Death Café participants enjoy one another’s company with unpretentious energies and a variety of mortality considerations are discussed. These include the logistics, services, and finances of attending to death, medical care at end of life, and if a good death can be had, are but just a few conversational topics. Considerations about the afterlife, what near-death experiences mean, whether the deceased are still “there,” and what it is like to be with a dying person are voiced, as are the realizations that death experiences have had in positively transforming Café participants. Café attendees tell their stories, ask for advice, support those that are still grieving, and provide wisdoms for one another. In the process, Death Café participants create communicative space where discussions about mortality can be made to promote a healthier outlook on one’s life and death. Finally, this chapter closes with an overview of other chapters in the text.


  1. Ariès, Phillipe. 1974. Western Attitudes Toward Death: From the Middle Ages to the Present. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Ariès, Phillipe. 1981. The Hour of Our Death. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.Google Scholar
  3. Butler, Katy. 2013. Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death. New York, NY: Scribner.Google Scholar
  4. Calhoun, Craig. 1994. Habermas and the Public Sphere. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Cohen, J. 1997. “Deliberations and Democratic Legitimacy.” In Deliberative Democracy: Essays on Reason and Politics, edited by James Bohman and William Rehg, 67–92. Boston: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  6. Corr, Charles A. 1992. “A Task-based Approach to Coping with Dying.” Omega—Journal of Death and Dying 23: 81–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Corr, Charles A. 2015. “Teaching about Life and Living in Courses on Death and Dying.” Omega—Journal of Death and Dying 73(2): 174–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dallas, Mary Elizabeth. 2016. “Many of Oldest Old Say They’re at Peace with Dying: Study Finds Most People over 95 are Simply Grateful for Every Day.” WEBSITE accessed on August 11, 2016.
  9. DeSpelder, Lynne Ann, and Albert Lee Strickland. 2009. The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.Google Scholar
  10. Economist Intelligence Unit. 2015. The 2015 Quality of Death Index: Ranking Palliative Care Across the World. Singapore: Lien Foundation Lien Foundation.Google Scholar
  11. Fromm, Erich. 1969. Escape from Freedom. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.Google Scholar
  12. Fromm, Erich. 2012. To Have or To Be. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.Google Scholar
  13. Guinness, Molly. 2010. “Never Say Die? Far from it in Paris Death Café.” Independent. WEBSITE accessed on December 11, 2014.
  14. Habermas, Jürgen. 1984. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 1: Reason and the Rationalization of Society. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Habermas, Jürgen. 1987. The Theory of Communicative Action, Volume 2: Lifeworld and System: A Critique of Functional Reason. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  16. Habermas, Jürgen. 1991. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Habermas, Jürgen. 1994. Justification and Application: Remarks on Discourse Ethics. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Illich, Ivan. 1976. Medical Nemesis: The Expropriation of Health. New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  19. Inglehart, Ronald. 2008. “Changing Values among Western Publics from 1970 to 2006.” West European Politics 31(1–2): 130–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lofland, Lyn H. 1979. The Craft of Dying: The Modern Face of Death. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  21. Mitford, Jessica. 1963. The American Way of Death. New York City: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  22. Oldenburg, Ray. 1999. The Great Good Place. New York: Marlowe & Company.Google Scholar
  23. Ritzer, George. 2010. Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Continuity and Change in the Cathedrals of Consumption. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Schudson, Michael. 1994. “Was There Ever a Public Sphere? If So, When? Reflections on the American Case.” In Habermas and the Public Sphere, edited by Craig Calhoun, 143–163. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  25. Slocum, Joshua, and Lisa Carlson. 2011. Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death. Hinesburg, VT: Upper Access Inc., Book Publishers.Google Scholar
  26. Smith, Ronald G. E. 1996. The Death Care Industries in the United States. London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.Google Scholar
  27. Szczelkun, Stefan. 1999. “Summary of the Theory of Communicative Action.” Royal College of Art, London. WEBSITE accessed on June 8, 2016.
  28. Viegas, F. B., M. Wattenberg, and J. Feinberg. 2009. “Participatory Visualization with Wordle.” Visualization and Computer Graphics, IEEE Transactions 15(6): 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Fong
    • 1
  1. 1.Associate Professor of SociologyDepartment of Psychology & Sociology California State Polytechnic UniversityPomona CAUSA

Personalised recommendations