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Call for abstracts: Queer Death Studies Reader. Edited by Nina Lykke, Marietta Radomska and Tara Mehrabi

The field of Queer Death Studies

The planned reader will gather a wide range of contributions to the field of Queer Death Studies (QDS). This is an emerging, transdisciplinary field of study which takes research on death, dying, and mourning in new directions, inspired by feminist, posthumanist, decolonial, anti-racist, queer, trans, body- and affect-theoretical scholarship, art and activism (Radomska, Mehrabi and Lykke 2020). What distinguishes QDS from conventional Death Studies such as death sociology or anthropology of death is an overall critical focus on the framing of death and extinction in the contemporary world through Anthropocene necropolitics (Mbembe 2003, Lykke 2019) and necropowers of post/colonialism, racial and extractivist capitalism. Death is approached as an ethico-political issue that is embedded in global power structures. QDS pays attention to systematic, necropolitical productions of death, in dialogue with ethico-political critiques emerging from political movements for social, environmental and planetary justice and change. QDS is also based on critiques of the dichotomous divides, characterising Western modernity, and is marked out through a critical focus on normativities and exclusionary notions of the human, casting the death of those who differ from the normative human subject in terms of gender, racialisation, migration status, class, geopolitical situatedness, able-bodiedness, and species as less grievable or disposable and not counting at all (Butler 2004). In short, QDS aligns itself with critiques of the intra-acting multiplicity of hierarchising divides between appropriate and in/appropriate/d others (Minh-ha 1989), articulated by social, environmental and planetary justice movements.

The Call

With this call, we invite abstracts from researchers, students, artists and activists who see their research and activities as aligned with critiques of the necropowers operating in the contemporary world, and who want to contribute to queering, decolonising and posthumanising death and the onto-epistemololgies and politics conventionally framing death.

QUEERING, DECOLONISING AND POSTHUMANISING

The verbform, queering, which we use here, encompasses a wide range of meanings. It refers to (1) open-ended deconstructing of normativities and processes of normalisation in various forms, as well as (2) undoing of heteropatriarchy, heteronormativity, binary gender and sexualities governed by reproductive biopowers or, in other words, the normative heterosexual matrix. Queering death is thus on the one hand understood as a critical strange-making, and defamiliarising, which may imply affirmative openings of other horizons than Christian and Cartesian dualist approaches to death, for example a focus on the vibrant entanglement of growing and decomposing (Radomska 2017; Lykke 2022). On the other hand, queering means critically focusing on the ways in which misogyny, trans- and queerphobia lead to social as well as physical death, and how violence and hate crimes towards non-normative individuals seek to render their lives and deaths non-grievable (Puar 2007; Chen 2012; Snorton 2017). Together with this broad spectrum of meanings, we also want to emphasise that queering should be understood in its intersections with decolonising and posthumanising efforts

Decolonising death involves critically dismantling the violent necropowers of colonisation, racial and extractivist capitalism, which for centuries have made death become ”life’s quiet companion” (Lehman 1997) for racialised and indigenous people worldwide, as well as confronting the over-arching racisms which continue to produce (physical, social and cultural) death along racialised lines. Moreover, decolonising death signals a turn towards pluritopic hermeneutics (Tlostanova and Mignolo 2009), i.e. hermeneutics which do not universalise Western modern frameworks, and which reevaluate indigenous philosophies, cosm-ontologies and sensibilities. In terms of life/death thresholds, this implies critically-affirmatively shifting the meanings of death, for example, substituting conceptualisations and imaginaries of death as a final endpoint within a chrononormative linear temporality, and instead opting for understandings, situated in geo- and corpo-political frameworks outside of Western modernity (e.g. Smith 1999; Anzaldua 2015).

Posthumanising death refers to the systematic problematisation of the planetary-scale mechanisms of annihilation of the more-than-human world in their ontological, epistemological and ethico-political dimensions. It involves critical analyses of the human/nonhuman divide and power differentials that have allowed for the reduction of the nonhuman to mere resource and instrument for human endeavours. Furthermore, the posthumanising move entails unpacking philosophical and cultural meanings of extinction and the ways in which it fundamentally disrupts life processes in relation to time, death and generations (e.g. Rose 2012); it draws attention to environmental violence, environmental grief, as well as nonhuman death manufactured en masse through anthropocentric habits of consumption and mechanisms of extractivism.

Consequently, posthumanising death takes seriously the issues of responsibility, accountability and care for/in dying more-than-human worlds, while remaining grounded in radical critiques of human exceptionalism, and affirmative embrace of alternatives (eg. Braidotti 2013; Haraway 2016; MacCormack 2020).

Formats and deadlines:

We call for abstracts of approximately 300 words, to be accompanied by a bio-note of approximately 200 words, as well as by a title of the proposed chapter and an indication of how the chapter relates to the below main themes to be covered in the reader.

Please, send your abstract etc to ninly[at]fastmail, cc: <marietta.radomska[at]liu.se> and <Tara.Mehrabi[at]kau.se>

Abstract DEADLINE: 1st NOVEMBER, 2021

We will respond to your abstract by MID-JANUARY 2022, and foresee submissions of FIRST DRAFT CHAPTERS by August 1, 2022.

We plan a reader with around 50 contributions, including a few reprints of classics. Scholarly as well as creative and artistic contributions are welcome! We hope together with contributors to build a reader which will be significant and agenda-setting for the field

THEMATIC CLUSTERS:

*Queering Death: Rethinking life/death ecologies

*Histories of necropowers and Anthropocene necropolitics

*Decolonising death

*Posthumanising death

*Demedicalising death

*Politics and Ethics of Mourning

*Alternative Spiritual, Aesthetic and Arts Activist Approaches to Death and After-life

The International Network for Queer Death Studies

The idea for the reader grew out of the international network for Queer Death Studies, which was founded in 2016, (see https://queerdeathstudies.net/). The network has organised several workshops and an international conference at Karlstad University, Sweden, in 2019.

We have earlier published two special journal issues of Australian Feminist Studies (2020, Vol 35 (104)), and Women, Gender and Research (2019: Issue 3-4).

REFERENCES

Anzaldua, G. E. (2015), Light in the Dark/Luz en Lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Reality, Spirituality, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Braidotti, R. (2013), The Posthuman, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Butler, J. (1990), Gender Trouble. Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London, New York: Routledge.

Butler, J. (2004), Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence, New York, NY: Verso.

Chen, M. Y. (2012), Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering and Queer Affect, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Haraway, Donna (2016), Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, Durham, NC and London: Duke University Press.

Lehman, G. (1997), ‘Life’s Quiet Companion’, in G. Carey and R. Sorenson (eds), The Penguin Book of Death, 223–232, Ringwood: Penguin Australia.

Lykke, N. (2019), ‘Making Live and Letting Die: Cancerous Bodies between Anthropocene Necropolitics and Chthulucene Kinship’, Environmental Humanities, 11 (1): 108–36.

Lykke, N (2022), Vibrant Death. A Posthuman Phenomenology of Mourning. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

MacCormack, Patricia (2020a), The Ahuman Manifesto. Activism for the End of the Anthropocene. London: Bloomsbury Academic.

Mbembe, A. (2003), Necropolitics, Public Culture, 15 (1): 11–40.

Minh-ha, T. T. (1989), Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, Bloomington and Indianapolis IN: Indiana University Press.

Puar, J. (2007), Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, Durham: Duke UP-

Radomska, M., T. Mehrabi, and N. Lykke (2020), Queer Death Studies: Death, Dying and Mourning From a Queerfeminist Perspective, Australian Feminist Studies, 35(104): 81-100.

Radomska, M. (2017), Non/living Matter, Bioscientific Imaginaries and Feminist Technoecologies of Bioart, Australian Feminist Studies, 32 (94): 377-394.

Rose, D. B. (2012), Multispecies knots of ethical time, Environmental Philosophy, 9(1): 127–140.

Shildrick, M (2020) Queering the Social Imaginaries of the Dead, Australian Feminist Studies, 35(104): 170-185.

Smith, L.T. 1999. Decolonizing Methodologies. Research and Indigenous Peoples. London and New York: Zed books.

Snorton, C.R (2017), Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tlostanova, M. and W. Mignolo (2009), On Pluritopic Hermeneutics, Trans-Modern Thinking, and Decolonial Philosophy, Encounters, 1 (1): 11–27.

The Posthumanities Hub Seminar on ‘Queer Death Aesthetics’, 27th May at 13:15 – 15:00 on Zoom.

Welcome to the Posthumanities Hub Seminar on Queer Death Aesthetics with speakers: Karolina Żyniewicz (University of Warsaw) and Jacob B. Riis (Aarhus University)!

Queer Death Studies (QDS) is an emerging transdisciplinary field that critically investigates and challenges conventional normativities, assumptions and expectations surrounding the issues of death, dying and mourning in the contemporary world. In particular, QDS pays attention to the ways planetary-scale necropolitics render some lives and deaths more recognised, understood or grievable than others.  If ‘queering’ in QDS is understood in a broad, open-ended sense as strange-making, defamiliarising, where the critical defamiliarisation implied may lead to an opening of other, more affirmative horizons, what would then ‘queer death aesthetics’ mean? During the seminar we will try to tackle this question in depth…

The event is curated by Dr Marietta Radomska and is organised in collaboration with The Eco- and Bioart Lab.

When: 27th May 2021, 13:15 – 15:00 CEST

Where: On Zoom

REGISTRATION: In order to take part in the seminar, please register by sending an email to the.posthumanities.hub@gmail.com by 25th May 2021 at noon (CEST) the latest.

The Zoom link will be sent to you on 26th May.

More info below.

Photos included in the poster: Portrait of Karolina Żyniewicz by Pawel Jozwiak (CSW Laznia, Gdansk; LEFT) and Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991, by Felix Gonzalez-Torres (RIGHT).

Speakers:

Safe suicide – becoming immortal and dying anyway.

By Karolina Żyniewicz

How to experience immortal life and death at the same time? How to do it safely, without a risk? Are cells isolated from my body still part of me? These were the main questions which I asked to myself and to my scientific collaborators in the beginning of working on safe suicide project. The project was transmattering on many different levels, a transformation of the body and its notion, understanding of life and death coalition, cognitive production, artistic expression. In the frame of the project I immortalised my cells, B lymphocytes just in order to decide about their death. Technically speaking, it was giving to them/myself immortality to take it back in many different experiments. It was being a donor, an observer, a caretaker and a killer at the same time. The project does not give precise answers for the posted questions but it allows to envision what means being liminal, being many and being constantly reconfigured.

Bio

Karolina Żyniewicz is an artist (2009 graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Łódź, Department of Visual Arts) and researcher, PhD student (Nature-Culture Transdisciplinary PhD Program at Artes Liberales Faculty, University of Warsaw). Working in a laboratory (mostly at the Institute of Genetics and Biotechnology, Faculty of Biology, University of Warsaw) locates her works in the field of bio art, although she tries to avoid using this term.

Are we dead yet?

By Jacob B. Riis

One of the defining characteristics in human behavioural modernity is burial of the dead in conjunction with ritual and art – art’s primordial love affair is with putrefying corpses. This project outlines a genre that utilises material corpses to produce contemporary art pieces. I currently conceptualise this art form as Necro Art, which serves to connect it to Mbembian inspired Necro Aesthetics and simultaneously establish it as its own field or genre within Art History. While perhaps being a version of Body Art originating in Viennese Actionism, Necro Art simultaneously aligns along different trajectories. It samples and shuffles in early human ritual, folkloric, pagan and rural art forms usually not present in realms of High/Academic Art, and brings the overlooked, the spectral, the magical, and the illiterate too Art History. Through focus on materiality, agency and constellations of subjectivities, each artwork conjures ghosts, reveals life where there is none, and allows its experiencer to connect with the dead, forcing us to reconsider the boundaries of life.

Bio

Jacob B. Riis, Art historian (graduated from Copenhagen University in 2014), 2009-2014 Curator Assistant at The Danish Museum of National History, Hillerød, 2014-2018 Head of Teaching and Curator at Ordrupgaard in Copenhagen, currently PhD student at Art History, Aarhus University.

New Publication: Special issue of the journal Australian Feminist Studies focused on Queer Death Studies

For those of you who follow activities of Queer Death Studies Network: check out this exciting special issue of Australian Feminist Studies co-edited by Marietta Radomska, Tara Mehrabi and Nina Lykke! Most of the collection is available in Open Access.

The Posthumanities Hub Seminar with Prof. Patricia MacCormack, 30th January 2020, 13:15-15:00, KTH

Manifesto

Welcome to the first Posthumanities Hub event in 2020 – the seminar with Prof. Patricia MacCormack (Anglia Ruskin University, UK) on A Joyful Apocalypse: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene.

When: 30th January, 13:15 – 15:00

Where: the seminar room at the Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm (Teknikringen 74 D, Stockholm).

Facebook event

OBS! Please REGISTER FOR THIS EVENT by sending an email to: the.posthumanities.hub[at]gmail.com

Abstract:

To end the anthropocene  is a call to activism at a time where ways of living seem impossible to proscribe and the world’s many urban and natural environments and organisms are increasingly transforming, some becoming more vulnerable while others increase their exertion of power over global systems of information and control. During these ages it can be difficult to imagine new and multiple ways of existing where hopelessness and imagination exist simultaneously. Beyond the Posthuman, but firmly within this world, my concept of the Ahuman acknowledges we aren’t nonhuman, but devalues the term human and its thus far devastating consequences for the world in order to suggest vitalistic, perhaps even optimistic, ways to negotiate some of the difficulties in thinking and acting in a world where meaning and reality are tentative but material actuality and lives (of all varieties) are in need of novel modes of intervention and interaction for the liberation and creative freedom of all organisms and the ecology of the Earth as a whole. Collapsing activism, artistic practice and affirmative ethics, while introducing some radical contemporary ideas such as human extinction and vegan abolition this paper navigates the ways in which we must compose the human differently, specifically beyond nihilism and post – and trans-humanism and outside human privilege. This is in order to actively think and live with connectivity (actual not virtual), viscerally, with passion and grace, toward a new world. The irony of the apocalypse is that the world continues nonetheless.  How can we live more ethically? How can the end of the human (even the posthuman) mean the end of human privilege as that which assists in opening the world to all life and to the human apocalypse being the birth of the world through deep ecology?

Bio:

Patricia MacCormack is Professor of Continental Philosophy at Anglia Ruskin University. She is the author of Cinesexuality (2008), Posthuman Ethics (2012) and The Ahuman Manifesto (2020), the editor of The Animal Catalyst: Toward Ahuman Theory (2014) and the co-editor of Deleuze and the Schizoanalysis of Cinema (2008), Deleuze and the Animal (2017) and Ecosophical Aesthetics (2018). She publishes extensively in the posthuman, queer theory, animal studies, horror film, and Continental Philosophy.

The event is organised in collaboration with the Konstfack Research Week 2020 – see the detailed programme here.

 

The First International Queer Death Studies Conference: CfP deadline 30 June!

The First International Queer Death Studies Conference:
“Death Matters, Queer(ing) Mourning, Attuning to Transitionings”

4-5 NOVEMBER 2019,
KARLSTAD UNIVERSITY,
SWEDEN

Radomska - short lichen

Photo: Marietta Radomska

ORGANISERS:
Queer Death Studies Network
Centre for Gender Studies, Karlstad University
Tema Genus, Linköping University

[for CfP – see below. Deadline for abstracts: 30 June]

Official conference website: https://www.kau.se/en/centre-gender-studies/date/first-international-queer-death-studies-conference-death-matters

In the context of the current environmental crises, the degradation of natural resources transforms certain habitats into unliveable spaces, while social and economic inequalities and geopolitical, social and symbolic violence expose differential vulnerabilities of communities and individuals. Both global and local mechanisms of necropolitics (Mbembe 2003) exert their power over the lives and deaths of populations, making some deaths more grievable than others (Butler 2004). Simultaneously, unsustainable living conditions and environments contribute to increased mortality rates and the extinction of species.

While natural sciences emphasise the interdependence of human and the environment, Western cultural imaginaries keep drawing a dividing line between humans and nonhuman others, particularly visible in the context of death. The division is combined with a dual approach to death – human death in particular – namely, Western cultural frameworks tend to present human death either as a step towards a disembodied afterlife (Christian tradition), or as something to be eradicated in favour of survival (secular biomedical perspective).

Arguably, the questions of death have been present in Western philosophy since antiquity. While these perspectives explore both ontological and axiological aspects of death, they are primarily concerned with the death of human individuals, seen from the perspective of the sovereign subject. Furthermore, questions around death, human remnants and the cultural and medical aspects of dying have been studied from anthropological, sociological, historical, and psychological perspectives, next to the biomedical ones. Since its establishment as a research field in the 1970s, Death Studies has drawn attention to the questions of death, dying and mourning as complex and multifaceted phenomena that require interdisciplinary approaches.

Yet, the engagements with death, dying and mourning constitutive of conventional Death Studies’ research, have left many questions open insofar as they have often been governed by the normative notions of: the subject; continuing bonds; family relations and communities; rituals; and experiences of mourning, and bereavement. Individuals who do not fulfil the conditions of the normative idea of the human (usually imagined to be white, middle-class, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied) tend to be ignored in dominant stories on death, loss, grief and mourning. Moreover, the current environmental crisis seems to produce a growing consciousness about living in ecological and social proximities to death, which also gives rise to demands for more diverse, nuanced and inclusive stories of death, dying and mourning.

The emerging field of Queer Death Studies (QDS), which the conference creates an arena for, aims to fill these gaps in traditional Death Studies, by attending to issues of: diverse cultural, socio-political, historical, and economic conditions; entangled relations between human and the environment in the context of the Anthropocene; differential experiences of marginalised communities and individuals excluded from the hegemonic discourses on death, loss, grief and mourning, associated for example with the heteronormative model of family bonds; and, contemporary forms of necropolitics: mechanisms of power that force certain bodies into liminal spaces between life and death.

Against this background, QDS emerges as a transdisciplinary field of research that critically and (self) reflexively investigates and challenges conventional normativities, assumptions, expectations, and regimes of truths that are brought to life and made evident by death, dying and mourning. By bringing together conceptual and analytical tools grounded in feminist materialisms and feminist theorising broadly speaking (e.g. Braidotti 2006; MacCormack 2012), queer theory (e.g. Haritaworn, Kuntsman & Posocco 2014) and decolonial critique (e.g. Fanon 1965; Mignolo 2011), QDS strives to advance methodologies and understandings that critically and creatively attend to the problem of death, dying, and mourning in the current environmental, cultural, and socio-political contexts.

In order to search for broad inspirations for alternative articulations and stories which queer, that is, unpack and question the normativities (Chen 2012; Sandilands & Erickson 2012) that often frame contemporary discourses on death, dying and mourning, The First International Queer Death Studies Conference Death Matters, Queer(ing) Mourning, Attuning to Transitionings mobilises a transdisciplinary engagement involving not only academics, but also activists, artists and other practitioners. In the context of the conference, to queer issues of death, dying and mourning means to unhinge certainties, “undo normative entanglements and fashion alternative imaginaries” beyond the exclusive concern with gender and sexuality, often associated with the term “queer” (Giffney & Hird 2008, 6). In particular, the conference calls for papers within the following three overall themes: (1) death matters and materialities, (2) queering mourning, and (3) attuning to transitionings run through both days and all keynote lectures.

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:

Stine Willum Adrian (Aalborg University, DK) – “Stitching Stories of Broken Hearts: Rethinking technologies of Death and Dying at the Beginning of Life”

Patricia MacCormack (Anglia Ruskin University, UK) – “Embracing Death, Opening the World”

Kira O’Reilly (independent artist, Helsinki, FI),
“An un’seaming mourning
(second iteration)
a year later”

C. Riley Snorton (University of Chicago, USA) – “Mud: Queer Death and Teeming Forms of Wildlife”

CALL FOR PAPERS:

The First International Queer Death Studies Conference: “Death Matters, Queer(ing) Mourning, Attuning to Transitionings” aims to create an arena for critical discussion of death, dying and mourning that goes beyond the dual approach to death – human death in particular – that is common within Western cultural frameworks of Christian tradition or secular biomedical perspectives. As such, the conference invites scholars who work with death, dying, mourning and afterlife in relation to: diverse cultural, socio-political, historical, and economic conditions; entangled relations between human and the environment in the context of the Anthropocene; differential experiences of marginalised communities and individuals excluded from the hegemonic discourses on death, loss, grief and mourning, associated for example with the heteronormative model of family bonds; and, contemporary forms of necropolitics: mechanisms of power that force certain bodies into liminal spaces between life and death (for instance, refugees whose lives in detention camps turn into the state of “social death” (Mirzoeff 2019)). Interventions that focus on practices that resist hegemonic norms, as well as queer and decolonialise mourning and remembering are also welcome.

In order to search for broad inspirations for alternative articulations and stories which queer, that is, unpack and question the normativities (Chen 2012; Sandilands & Erickson 2012) that often frame contemporary discourses on death, dying, mourning and afterlife, the conference is based on a transdisciplinary engagement involving not only academics, but also activists, artists and other practitioners. In the context of the conference, to queer issues of death, dying, mourning and afterlife means to unhinge certainties, “undo normative entanglements and fashion alternative imaginaries” beyond the exclusive concern with gender and sexuality, often associated with the term “queer” (Giffney & Hird 2008, 6). In particular, the conference will call for papers within the following three overall themes: (1) death matters and materialities, (2) queering mourning, and (3) attuning to transitionings run through both days and all the keynote lectures.

The conference invites individual papers (length: 20 min) that engage with – but are not necessarily limited to – the following themes:

– Queer methodologies of researching death, dying, mourning and afterlife
– Queering and decolonialising practices of mourning, bereavement and remembrance
– Materiality of death and corpses
– Queering philosophies of death
– Death/life ecologies
– Necropolitics and borders
– Queer and trans necropolitics
– Un/grievable lives and deaths
– Death and biotechnology/biomedicine
– Queering cancer and other life-threatening diseases
– Suicide
-Technologies of life/death
– Queer widowhood
– Decolonialising death
– Illness narratives and death
– Ethico-politics and practices of killability
– Nonhuman death and dying
– Extinction and annihilation
– Death and acts of resistance
– ‘Slow death’
– Queering temporalities of death
– Queer spiritualities
– Death, ghosts and hauntology

Please, send a 300-word long abstract, accompanied by a 100-long bio to: qdsconference[at]gmail.com .

Deadline for abstracts: 30 June 2019

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