Philip Olson

Assistant Professor, STS

Blacksburg Campus

Email: prolson@vt.eduPhone: 540-231-1119
Office Hours: By appointmentOffice: 333 Lane Hall (0247)

Phil Olson is an assistant professor in the Department of Science and Technology in Society. He works at the intersections of bioethics, environmental ethics, medicine in culture, technology studies, and gender studies. His current research focuses on funeral technologies, and on relationships between the medicalized body and the funeralized corpse. In Phil’s research, the dead human body and funeral technologies serve as research sites for studying the interaction of religious, commercial, medical, governmental, cultural, and environmental interests. His most recent work (forthcoming in Science, Technology & Human Values) examines various body concepts deployed by actors who have a stake in the development of alkaline hydrolysis, a form of funerary disposition that has begun to take hold in the US. Phil is currently working on projects having to do with “necro-waste,” the classification of funeral technologies, the gender politics of caring for corpses, and the roles of technology in organizing and controlling funeral work.

Phil’s interest in funeral work comes from his experiences growing up in a family of funeral directors, and from working in funeral homes in Minnesota and North Dakota. Deciding not to pursue the family business, Phil earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from Emory University in 2007 and joined the STS Department in 2012. He has taught courses in epistemology, theoretical ethics, bioethics, feminism, pragmatism, and the philosophy of religion. He also teaches courses on medical and funeral technologies.

Phil serves on the Board of Trustees/Directors of the Funeral Consumer Alliance of the Virginia Blue Ridge, a local non-profit, all-volunteer organization devoted to providing our service area with information about local funeral options and requirements.

Recently, Phil organized a public screening of the award-winning documentary, Dying Green, which was followed by a panel discussion about the growing “green burial” movement.

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