RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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176 Geographies of loss, grief and carrying on: the nexus of death, diversity and resilience (1)
Affiliation Social and Cultural Geography Research Group
Geographies of Health and Wellbeing Research Group
Convenor(s) Avril Maddrell (University of the West of England, UK)
Charlotte Kenten (GOSH, UK)
Katie McClymont (University of the West of England, UK)
Olivia Stevenson (University College London,UK)
Chair(s) Katie McClymont (University of the West of England, UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 2 (11:10 - 12:50)
Session abstract Building on a growing body of work on geographies of death, dying and remembrance (e.g. Evans 2014; Maddrell and Sidaway 2010; Stevenson et al 2016, Social and Cultural Geography), these sessions will explore the spatial dimensions of social, cultural, material and immaterial complexities of the nexus of human and non-human life-death, absence-presence, grieving-consolation. Papers are invited from Geography, History, Planning, Design and related areas which are attentive to difference and diversity (Global South/ North, gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, age) and address critically-engaged, theoretical, empirical and methodological issues, including: The physical, emotional, spiritual and virtual spaces and practices of living-dying, including life-shortening illnesses, suicide, survival, remembrance and consolation; Discursive and material spaces and boundaries of grievability, including non-human loss; Intersections of time-space in practices and performances of loss and resilience; Inclusive and exclusive deathscapes and practices; Policy and planning needs and responses in diverse and multicultural societies; Research methodologies, ethics and researcher care and resilience
Linked Sessions Geographies of loss, grief and carrying on: the nexus of death, diversity and resilience (2)
Geographies of loss, grief and carrying on: the nexus of death, diversity and resilience (3)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
Tracing loss and way-finding through mapping grief: an intersectional conceptual framework
Avril Maddrell (University of the West of England, UK)
This paper highlights the significance of the spatial dimensions of the universal human phenomena of bereavement. Grief, mourning and remembrance are experienced in and mapped upon (i) physical spaces, including the public and private arenas of everyday life; (ii) the embodied-psychological spaces of the interdependent and co-producing body-mind and (iii) the virtual spaces of digital technology, religious-spiritual beliefs and non-place-based community. Culturally inflected, dynamic emotional-affective maps of grief can be identified, as a form of deep-mapping, which reflect the ways in which relationality to particular spaces and places is inflected by bereavement, mourning and remembrance. Individual's emotional-affective cartographies can intersect, overlap, or conflict with, others' maps, with social and political consequences. The conceptual framework outlined provides a lens on the dynamic assemblage of self-body-place-society that constitutes culturally inflected individual and shared everyday grief maps, providing insight to relational spaces, emotional-affective geographies and therapeutic environments. The reflexive identification of such maps represents a potential resource for the bereaved and those experiencing other forms of loss and may be useful in therapeutic contexts, facilitating the identification of places which evoke anguish or comfort etc. and those which might be deemed emotionally 'safe' or 'unsafe' at particular junctures. The second half of the paper goes on to articulate the need to explore the ways in which shared and individual affective-emotional experiences of loss, remembrance, absence-presence and resilience are shaped and inflected by intersectional social, cultural, political and regional factors such as gender, ethnicity, religion, locality, nationality, family and socio-economic class.
Mapping Consolation
Christoph Jedan (University of Groningen, The Netherlands)
We today have 'extremely limited scholarly or pastoral notions of what consolation is' (Klass). In my presentation I suggest that if we want to understand consolation, we should turn to consolation literature, a literary tradition of highly self-reflexive texts that began in Greco-Roman Antiquity. Arguably, much of today's psychological bereavement literature should be viewed as late and historically unaware descendants of that tradition. Analysing consolation literature as an extended tradition thus provides a cultural and conceptual canvas on which specific spatial maps of consolation can be laid out (Maddrell). Whilst many, perhaps infinitely many, such canvasses are conceivable – they might best be thought of as 'slices' of the conceptual universe of possible meanings – the 'Western' tradition of consolatory literature seems to offer a surprisingly limited set of contracted conceptual 'regions' serving as anchor points for a canvas. In my presentation, I wish to focus on four conceptual regions, tracing their conceptual entanglements and providing at the same time examples of how they inform and inflect spatial cartographies of consolation: Consolation aims at lowering distress produced by the experience of the limitations of human existence and/or at fostering resilience against past as well as (unspecified) future losses. This is pursued through the following strategies: making loss understandable by offering therapeutic (as opposed to dogmatic theological or philosophical) 'accounts' of death; rewriting the life of the deceased to provide the picture of a biography that is rounded off, meaningful and 'complete'; and finally rescripting the survivor's life by appealing to sources of inner strength, an attempt inflected by constructions of gender, community and the like.
The vital laughter of life and death
Phil Emmerson (University of Birmingham, UK)
Nursing care homes encompass a distinctly everyday yet highly liminal set of spaces and practices at the nexus between life and death. These extend across residents, family members and workers, all of whom maintain their own distinct geographies. This paper explores my own experiences of one such place, particularly through engaging with the different types of laughter that can be heard throughout the home. Rather than explain these laughters in terms of their functional or emotional contexts however, through drawing on the work of Bergson and Bataille, I instead look to offer an abstracted vision of the connections between laughter, life and death – positioning laughter as a spatially and temporally nomadic practice that often crosses the life-death divide. The paper thus concludes by questioning how in thinking this way, we might start to differently consider the geographies of both care homes and the people who engage them.
Euthanasia and the edge of life: humane killing at the Battersea Dogs' Home
Philip Howell (University of Cambridge, UK)
This paper considers the boundaries of life and death and the boundaries of grievability for non-human animals, through a focus on the history of the Battersea Dogs' Home and the long-established practice of euthanizing unviable, unwanted and un-rehomeable dogs. This was but an early instance of the now familiar collusion between humane organizations and the police, but it occupies a privileged place in the ways in which the principle and the language of 'mercy killing' has developed and been justified. I consider the humane gas chambers of the Dogs Home as places at the edge of life, something like 'the extreme and final, the perfect and unsurpassable form of confinement' of Foucault's conception. Looking at this place of suspension between life and death, this paper explores the discursive and spatial practices at work in making killable – 'how we kill, when we cease to care, and what little remains in the world for us' (Colin Dayan, 2016). Most notable here are the ways in which such killing has routinely been compared to the treatment of human subjects, such as capital punishment or voluntary euthanasia, and the scopic practices by which such killing is alternately hidden from view and unsettlingly publicised.
Museum deathscapes: Geographies of the human remains store
Sarah Morton (University of Oxford, UK)
Over the last 30 years calls for the repatriation of the remains of Indigenous peoples, shifts in museum practice and wider socio-cultural changes around the meanings of the dead body have resulted in human remains becoming situated as culturally sensitive parts of museum collections. As part of this process human remains have been physically separated from other parts of the collections creating specific spaces within museums that are associated with the dead, and in which the concept of respectful treatment is demonstrated through behaviour and embodied practice.