Summer School 2024

Queer Death Studies

Loss and Grief in Contemporary Bio- and Necropolitics

Netherlands Research School of Gender Studies

26 – 30 August 2024, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

  • How are grief, loss and death conceptualized in the fields of queer feminist, posthuman and eco-critical, anti-racist and post- and decolonial studies, and what do these distinct, yet resonant, onto-epistemologies offer for critical and explorative engagements with contemporary socio-political realities?
  • What insights do contemporary landscapes of death—their formations, their organizations, their rationalizations—provide about the exclusionary and hierarchical operationalization of life? And how else can being be envisioned to disperse ethics beyond the liberal subject?
  • What forms could a politics of loss take when scaled across individual and collective experience as well as localized and planetary visions? And what modes of resistance and living otherwise take shape and are practiced across these spatial and temporal differentiations?

Embedded in the emerging field of Queer Death Studies, this year’s NOISE summer school focuses on the topics of loss and grief by bringing perspectives from the fields of queer feminist, posthuman and eco-critical, anti-racist and post- and decolonial studies to bear on contemporary questions, practices and politics of life and death.

The interdisciplinary field of Queer Death Studies has, in recent years, taken shape as critical interventions in and reconfigurations of the ontologies, epistemologies and ethics that limit the conventional study of death and dying to the anthropocentric, racist, sexed/gendered and otherwise normatively figured human subject and its similarly imagined relations, with little attention paid to the impacts of contemporary bio- and necropolitics (Radomska, Mehrabi and Lykke 2020). Simultaneously, the topic of grief has received heightened attention with its recent realization as psychiatric diagnosis (i.e., the entries of “Prolonged Grief Disorder” in the DSM-5-TR and the ICD-11). Across expert discourse and popular-societal debate, however, resides a tendency to constrain engagement with experiences of loss to the question of whether to perceive of grief as pathology, rather than asking what else this phenomenon might have to tell us about life and death.

In view of the consolidations of normative and exclusionary trends in contemporary grief discourse and conventional studies on death and dying, as well as the ongoing violence of settler-colonial enterprises globally – with all eyes currently on Gaza and Palestine –, this summer school aims to hone our critical understanding of and responsiveness to contemporary realities and politics of life and death and the practices and questions that arise from them. What ontological alterations and epistemological interventions do queer feminist, posthuman and eco-critical, anti-racist and post- and decolonial studies provide for critical and explorative engagements with the topics of death and dying? How do these perspectives re/formulate and sharpen our engagements with contemporary necropolitical landscapes (Mbembe 2003) and the less explicit yet life-draining biopolitics of cruel optimism and slow death (Berlant 2011)? What happens to the politics of loss and the ethics of grief when they are gauged from perspectives that have been historically excluded and continue to be marginalized from and subjected to colonial, conventional science and western dualist and mechanistic perspectives on life and death (e.g., Hartman 2008, Tuhiway Smith 2021)?

This edition of the NOISE summer school introduces students to distinct epistemologies within queer feminist, posthuman and eco-critical, anti-racist and post- and decolonial studies with the aim to critically examine and learn from the theoretical, ethical and political resonances and divergences these perspectives generate around questions of inclusion/exclusion, presence/absence and erasure, as well as from artistic and activist practices and methodologies of resistance and living otherwise.

For more information, see NOISE 2024.