Mourning work: Death and democracy during a pandemic
A screenshot from Sophocles’ Oedipus the King,
staged via Zoom by Theater of War Productions.
Photograph Courtesy Theater of War Productions
Source: The New Yorker
Dissident mourning calls for a radical renegotiation and reinvention of the category of mourning itself, and especially its reliance on white, nationalist, patriarchal, heteronormative, and familialist discursive archives. In this respect, it calls for rethinking the political implications of critical mourning in instating possibilities for decolonial, antiracist, anti-fascist, and queer feminist political subjectivities in our times. Dissident mourning is about accounting for the unequal conditions of grievability – to invoke Butler’s work – that haunt the common intelligibility of memorable life through socially prohibited forms of grief and desire. At the same time, it is about responding to those irrecoverable and irreconcilable losses through reckoning with the impossibility of taking the lost other within oneself. In this sense, the question becomes what to do politically with the possibility of impossible mourning. Perhaps the impossibility or inability to engage with the dead other is the only possible way to mourn. How might, then, this double bind be embodied in the politics of dissident mourning under the circumstances of sovereign regulation of otherness? How does this aporia come to involve the resistant politics of remembering otherwise in the face of political loss? How does it indicate a notion of non-sovereign political subjectivity involving the intricacies of vulnerability, despair, and responsiveness? And, finally, how might instantiations of dissident mourning attend to the experience of becoming a political subject constituted through loss and engaged in pursuits of critical agency, in opposition and resistance to the logics of unclaimable political loss?
In McIvor, D. W., Hooker, J., Atkins, A., Athanasiou, A., & Shulman, G. (2020).
Mourning work: Death and democracy during a pandemic.
Contemporary Political Theory, 1–35.