RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016

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242 Geographies of loss, grief and carrying on: the nexus of death, diversity and resilience (3)
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)
Katie McClymont (University of the West of England, UK)
Olivia Stevenson (University College London,UK)
Charlotte Kenten (GOSH, UK)
Chair(s) Olivia Stevenson (University College London,UK)
Timetable Thursday 01 September 2016, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
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 (1)
Geographies of loss, grief and carrying on: the nexus of death, diversity and resilience (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2016@rgs.org
They have different ways of doing things'. Cemeteries, diversity and local place attachment'
Katie McClymont (University of the West of England, UK)
This paper draws on research from cemeteries in the UK which explores their role in presenting and promoting local identity, and accommodating multifaith and multicultural practices. It draws on interviews with cemetery managers, and researcher taken photographs of gravestones, cemetery landscapes and other memorial practices to present a broad diversity both within and between groups, places and sites. Both the visual material and interview data highlight the strength of (local) place attachment in the expression of identity in both material memorials and practices. The interview research suggests that there are different understandings of group and individual identities between those seen as 'indigenous' or 'immigrant', with assumptions of homogenous wishes for members of the latter category, which are also substantively different that those of the 'local' population. However, the visual material problematizes the simplicity of this designated difference. This unsettles static assumptions about identity, raising questions for those managing or developing cemetery space. The paper also explores notions of meaning and interpretation in visual vis-à-vis verbal research material.
Invisibilising Islam in Britain and France: the graveyard which dares not speak its name
Alistair Hunter (The University of Edinburgh, UK)
This paper, based on an ongoing qualitative study of post-migration diversity, analyses different aspects of a 'politics of invisibilisation' at work in Muslim burial grounds in Britain and France. With Muslim families increasingly choosing not to repatriate deceased loved ones to places of origin, there is growing demand for Muslim burial space in countries of residence throughout western Europe. In France, the strict separation of religion and state extends into municipal cemeteries, which in theory should be completely neutral with no spatial zoning into separate confessional sections. However a place in a de facto separate section may be granted at the discretion of municipal authorities, provided such sections are visibly indistinguishable from the rest of the cemetery. In Britain, where the legitimacy of claims-making based on ethnicity or minority faith status is well established in public policy, one would expect the creation of separate burial space to be less problematic. However, when local planning decisions become the object of grassroots opposition and mobilisation, the authorities may turn to invisibilising strategies as a pragmatic means to defuse tensions, for example by omitting all Islamic references from the name given to a particular burial ground.
Feeling alone, co-presence and absent-presence in urban Senegal
Ruth Evans (University of Reading, UK)
Sophie Bowlby (University of Reading, UK)
Jane McCarthy (The Open University, UK)
Joséphine Wouango (University of Reading, UK)
Little empirical work has been conducted on geographies of loss and grief in the global South to date. Based on cross-cultural research funded by The Leverhulme Trust (2014-15), this paper explores the emotional geographies of the death of a relative in urban Senegal. We draw on in-depth interviews with a diverse sample of 59 family members of different genders, generations and relationships to the deceased in Dakar and Kaolack. We focus on participants' accounts of their feelings at the time of the death and in the weeks and months afterwards, particularly their sense of being 'alone' in homespace and feeling a 'gap', 'emptiness' or 'void' in their lives, despite the co-presence of numerous family members, friends and neighbours who offered consolation in the immediate aftermath. We also explore the time-space dimensions of the absent-presence of the deceased in participants' everyday lives and in the role of prayers and other practices to remember the deceased. The often welcome sense of presence of the deceased in particular places, remembrance practices, religious faith, and solidarity amongst the collective family group, appeared to be crucial in enabling young people and middle and older generation adults to 'manage' and carry on after a family death.
Mourning Remains: The Materialisation of Loss in Urban Decay
Michael Brennan (Liverpool Hope University, UK)
This paper takes up the challenge presented by Anthony Elliott (1999: 11) when he ponders how loss connects to the broader dynamics of culture, asking how contemporary culture mourns. In this vein, could the recent discursive and visual fascination with imagery of urban decay sometimes referred to glibly as 'ruins porn', and the burgeoning practice of urban exploring, be one manifestation of the means by which loss is melancholically materialised? If so, what exactly is being simultaneously mourned and melancholically preserved in practices by which loss is creatively re-animated? If, moreover, as Judith Butler (2003: 468) suggests, the past is never past in the sense of being 'over' because the physical traces of what remain continue as an animating presence, what do the spatio-temporal practices and tropes surrounding urban decay reveal about the political ecologies of mourning and memory? In the cultural economy of loss by which mourning and melancholia operate, is there not a desire to creatively re-imagine the future in ways that are also underscored by a pathos drenched in nostalgia? It is to these vexed questions, amongst others, that this exploratory paper seeks to attend.