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The Comfort of People

Daniel Miller

ISBN: 978-1-509-52432-7 September 2017 Polity 236 Pages



At the end of life, our comfort lies mainly in relationships.

In this book, Daniel Miller, one of the world's leading anthropologists, examines the social worlds of people suffering from terminal or long-term illness. Threading together a series of personal stories, based on interviews conducted with patients of an English hospice, Miller draws out the implications of these narratives for our understanding of community, friendship, and kinship, but also loneliness and isolation.

This is a book about people's lives, not their deaths: about the hospice patients rather than the hospice. It focuses on the comfort given by friends, carers and relatives through both face-to-face relations and, increasingly, online communication. Miller asks whether the loneliness and isolation he uncovers is the result of a decline of English patterns of socialising, or their continuation.

This moving and deeply humane book combines warmth and sharp observation with anthropological insight and practical suggestions for the use of media by the hospice. It will be of interest not only to students and scholars of anthropology, sociology, social policy and media and cultural studies, but also to healthcare professionals and, indeed, to anyone who would like to know more about the role of relationships in the final stage of our lives.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • Story 1) Sarah
  • Story 2) Champneys for the Terminal
  • Story 3) The Curse Of Confidentiality
  • Story 4) Parkinson’s
  • Story 5) Four Friends
  • Story 6) Betty and Gloria
  • Story 7) Tom, Dick and Robin Rigby
  • Story 8) My Fair Lady
  • Story 9) Maypole
  • Story 10) Control Centre
  • Story 11) Our Forum
  • Story 12) Depression
  • Story 13) Community
  • Story 14) Bluebells
  • Story 15) The Intimacy Of Strangers
  • Story 16) The Silent Community
  • Story 17) In This Room
  • Story 18) Matt
  • Conclusions
  • Recommendations for Hospice Use of New Media
  • Bibliography
  • 'The Comfort of People reveals, in both technicolour and shades of grey, the ordinariness, the drama, the simplicity and the complexity of networks as people live out lives in the shadow of a serious diagnosis... These stories need to be read by all those working with dying people.'
    Dr Ros Taylor, Clinical Director, Hospice UK