Call for Chapters for Edited Book – Death and Dying at the Margins: Material-Discursive Perspectives on Death and Dying (tentative title)

When: DEADLINE for abstracts extended until May 21, 2021; completed drafts due November 1, 2021.

Where: Contact Jesse Peterson <> or Natashe Lemos Dekker <> or Phil Olson <>


The third and final plate of mushroom risotto arrived. I was seated with Natashe and Philip, the night before we were to convene and discuss papers that explored the material-discursive aspects of death and dying. It seemed fitting, as the mushroom almost cloyed my tastebuds, that each of us would settle on fungus, often a symbol for decay, dissolution, and putrefaction. Fruiting harbingers that, by confronting their observers with the transformation of death back into life, challenge the definitions of the living, dying, alive, dead, not-alive, undead, and more. Reflecting on this moment, I can say that it was this very challenge that brought us together, the question of how materialities, practices, and stories help to organize the ambivalences in human determinations of those deemed dead or dying.

As confirmed by our workshop as well as our 2020 4S conference panel on the same theme, the three of us recognized that this challenge is taken up time and time again in different ways and that it extends beyond human death. The current corona pandemic highlights the significance of asking this question. Yet, this pandemic ought not overshadow the ways by which individuals, governments, and other interest groups negotiate with other kinds of dying, such as the disappearance of a loved one, the loss of a child before it is born, the inability to care for oneself due to dementia, the planned eradication of an invasive plant, the extinction of one species after the next, or the “death” of a river or lake. We all face the inevitable death of our own bodies, but also, through living, the countless deaths of others. Through meeting the messiness in dying, as scholars, we hope to navigate and attend to the complex, often difficult emotions of loss, grief, release, and more.

Gathering momentum from this convergence of how to negotiate the death of the human (literally and as enlightened subject) and nature (physically and as separate space), the three of us invite contributions to a forthcoming edited collection on the material-discursive aspects of dying. We’re excited to hear and learn from you.

The Call

Call for Chapters for Edited Book – Death and Dying at the Margins: Material-Discursive Perspectives on Death and Dying (tentative title)

Edited by Natashe Lemos Dekker (Anthropology, Leiden University), Phil Olson (STS, Virginia Tech), and Jesse Peterson (Environmental Studies, Sveriges Lantbruksuniversitet)

Subject Fields: Including, but not exclusively Environmental History / Studies, History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, STS, Sociology, Anthropology, Cultural History / Studies, Animal Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Queer Studies

Death is often assumed to arrive when heart and lungs stop, or when certain kinds of brain activities cease. Yet the borders between life and death are often unclear.  Death may get interrupted, delayed, or come undone, disrupting the “natural” and “normal” forms of a “good” death. We acknowledge such disruptions as material and discursive; that is, bodies, minds, geographies, stories, and more act to challenge human perspectives on how people, animals, plants, or things ought to die and where and how the dead ought to be laid to rest. What seemed coherent no longer is, both due to the breakdown or dissolution of that which is dying and due to the (dis)ordering of worlds and afterworlds. 

The editors seek contributions that will explore socio-ecological networks of the dying and dead that exist at the margins. Such work invites us to pursue and further identify ways to explore and establish connections between dying and death from perspectives that refute a nature/culture binary—to ask questions such as: 

  • What boundary work takes place to construct and maintain the categories of alive, not-alive, dead, dying, and undead for places, objects, and beings? 
  • How do states and processes of acquiescing to, existing in between, manipulating, or overcoming life and/or death affect normative assumptions about dying and death? 
  • What might it mean to reconfigure human understanding of death to a more ecological frame that accommodates more-than-human lives and/or deep time?
  • How might the memories, spirits, or spiritualities related to the dead and dying limit, expand, or explode a material-discursive frame?
  • How do such challenges alter ethical approaches or values attached to dying and death? 

We especially encourage submissions from scholars whose research practices consider feminist and queer studies, new materialism and waste, plant and animal studies, non-western or indigenous studies, and/or death studies.

If you would like to contribute your work, please indicate your willingness to participate by providing

(1) a 400-500 word abstract with title, and 

(2) a short biography of all co-authors.

The deadline for abstract submissions is February 26, 2021. If your proposal is accepted, you will receive a timeline of due dates. The tentative due date for the completed chapter is August 27, 2021.

Inquiries and proposals welcome: Contact Jesse Peterson <> or Natashe Lemos Dekker <> or Phil Olson <>

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