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