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.
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.fm , 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
*Queering Death: Rethinking life/death ecologies
*Histories of necropowers and Anthropocene necropolitics
*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.
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.