Queer Death Studies: Coming to Terms with Death, Dying and Mourning Differently. An Introduction

Women, Gender and Research 2019 (3-4):3-11 (2019)
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Abstract
Queer Death Studies (QDS) refers to an emerging 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. 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 inter- or multi-disciplinary approaches and perspectives. Yet, the engagements with death, dying and mourning, constitutive of conventional Death Studies’ investigations, tend to remain insufficient and reductive. They are often governed by the normative notions of: the subject; bonds between humans, as well as between humans and (their) animals; family relations and communities; rituals; and finally, experiences of grief, mourning, and bereavement. Moreover, these engagements are frequently embedded in constraining beliefs in life/death divides, constructed along the lines of conventional religious and/or scientific mind/body dualisms, characteristic of the Western cultural imaginaries. Against this background, QDS offers 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.
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