Welcome to the seminar “Queer Death Studies: Searching Points of Exit from Hegemonic Narratives” with Professor Margrit Schildrick and Dr. Marietta Radomska.
The seminar, held on the 28 of May (D 109) at 13-16, is organised by the Disgust Network in collaboration with Crises Redefined: Historical Continuity and Societal Change. Further details below.
Seminar “Queer Death Studies: Searching Points of Exit from Hegemonic Narratives”
Queer Death Studies Network, established in 2016, constitutes a space for researchers, students, artists, activists, and other practitioners who critically and (self) reflexively investigate and challenge conventional normativities, assumptions, expectations, and regimes of truths that are brought to life and made evident by death, dying, and mourning.
The conventional engagements with the questions of death, dying and mourning are insufficient and reductive: they are often governed by the normative notions of the subject; interhuman and human/nonhuman bonds; family relations and communities; rituals; and finally, experiences of grief, mourning, and bereavement. Moreover, these engagements are often embedded in constraining beliefs in life/death divides, constructed along the lines of conventional religious and/or scientific mind/body dualisms.
Against this background, Queer Death Studies serves as a site for ‘queering’ traditional ways of approaching death both as a subject of study and philosophical reflection, and as a phenomenon to articulate in artistic work or practices of mourning. Here, the notion of ‘queer’ conveys many meanings. It refers to researching and narrating death, dying and mourning in the context of queer bonds and communities, where the subjects involved/studied/interviewed and the relations they are involved in are recognised as ‘queer’. Simultaneously, the term ‘queer’ can also function as an adverb and a verb, referring thus to the processes of going beyond and unsettling (subverting, exceeding) binaries and given norms, normativities, and constraining conventions. In other words, ‘queer’ becomes both a process and a methodology that is applicable and exceeds the focus on gender and sexuality as its exclusive concerns.
This seminar brings together papers by two scholars whose work is embedded in the field of Queer Death Studies and who’s been active in the formation and development of QDSN.
Queering the Social Imaginaries of the Dead,
I offer a philosophical examination and queering of the social imaginaries of the dead – with specific reference to the recent public disclosures about death in Ireland’s Mother and Baby Homes – by looking at the issue of spectrality through the work of Derrida and others. What does it mean to respond to the dead, who, though temporarily forgotten, return to haunt us not as remembered human beings but as remnants or remainders? The normative distinctions between past and present; past, present and future; between living and non-living; absence and presence; and self and other are all made indistinct when displaced by a non-linear temporality. What differential is in play with respect to those who are grievable (as Butler has it) and the others who constitute bare life (Agamben)? Following the re/discovery of those dead lost to public discourse, the strategy of memorialisation seems inadequate. I will outline instead an alternative hauntological ethics, as suggested by Derrida, and ask if there are queer social imaginaries that allow us to live well with the dead not because we give them respect, but because death itself has been rethought? I will close with some speculations arising from Deleuze’s understanding of vitalism and Braidotti’s optimistic claim that ‘death frees us into life’.
Margrit Shildrick, PhD is Guest Professor of Gender and Knowledge Production at Stockholm University. Her research covers postmodern feminist and cultural theory, bioethics, critical disability studies and body theory. Books include Leaky Bodies and Boundaries (1997), Embodying the Monster (2002) and Dangerous Discourses of Disability, Sexuality and Subjectivity (2009), as well as several edited collections and many journal articles. Most recently, she has been addressing the socio-political and embodied conjunction of microchimerism, immunology, corporeal anomaly and death.
Deterritorialising Death: Queerfeminist Biophilosophy and Ecologies of the Non/Living in Contemporary Art,
In the contemporary context of environmental crises and the degradation of food and water resources, certain habitats become unliveable, leading to the death of individuals, populations and species extinction. Whilst bioscience emphasises interdependency and relationality as crucial characteristics of life shared by all organisms, Western cultural imaginaries tend to draw a thick dividing line between humans and nonhumans, particularly evident in the context of death. On the one hand, death appears as a process common to all forms of life; on the other, as an event that distinguishes human from other organisms (e.g. Heidegger 2010 (1953)).
Against this background, this paper explores how contemporary art – in particular, the series of works The Absence of Alice (2008-2011) by Australian new-media and bioartist Svenja Kratz – challenges the normative and human-exceptionalist concept of death. By employing queerfeminist biophilosophy (Thacker 2008; Radomska 2016) as a strategy that focuses on relations, processes and transformations instead of ‘essences’, the paper examines the ways Kratz’s works – read through feminist-materialist theorising – deterritorialise (Deleuze & Guattari 2004) the conventional concept of death. In this way, it hopes to attend to the intimacies between materialities of a human and nonhuman kind that form part of the processes of death and dying, and what follows, to reframe ethico-ontology of death as material and processual ecologies of the non/living.
Marietta Radomska, PhD, is a Postdoc at the Department of Thematic Studies (Gender Studies), Linköping University, SE, and a Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher at the Department of Cultures (Art History), University of Helsinki, FI. She is the co-director of The Posthumanities Hub; founder of The Eco- and Bioart Research Network, co-founder of International Network for ECOcritical and DECOlonial Studies and a founding member of Queer Death Studies Network. Radomska is a philosopher and transdisciplinary gender studies and posthumanities scholar. Her current research project focuses on ecologies of death in the context of contemporary art. She is the author of the monograph Uncontainable Life: A Biophilosophy of Bioart (2016), and has published in Australian Feminist Studies, Somatechnics, and Angelaki, among others.