politics of the hap

Conferences, or me speaking about stuff.
March 20, 2014, 12:41 pm
Filed under: Academe, PhD chat

I’m getting myself around this year which is somewhat unheard of. I am very excited to be speaking at the following conferences this year (maybe more to follow…). If you’re interested come and have a listen!

Titles of papers and conferences:

23-25th April: ‘What does it mean to recover?: Negotiating recovery in grief and bereavement’, The British Sociological Association Conference, Leeds.

5-6th June: ‘Navigating the liminal space of grief’, Between Spaces and Places: Landscapes of Liminality conference, Trinity College Dublin.

7-8th July: ‘Recovery and getting over grief: Or ways of being human that were never sovereign’, Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane conference, University of Sheffield.

Here’s the full abstracts:

‘What does it mean to recover?: Negotiating recovery in grief and bereavement’, BSA, April.

The use of the term ‘recovery’ has become increasingly popular in mental health care and policy. The notion of recovery began as a radical movement that critiqued the paternalistic nature of health care and sought to reclaim power back to the patient or service user. Though the initial move towards recovery sought to bring acceptance to living with an illness and to broaden the notion of recovery outside of medical requirements; as recovery has been co-opted and incorporated into mainstream practices, the radical demands have gradually coincided with, or diluted by, a government agenda of autonomy and individual responsibility. Similarly in literature on grief, recovery has gained interest yet what recovery from grief entails remains contested. Current theories tend to conceptualise grief as a psychological phenomenon to be overcome, often through the use of psychotherapeutics. Yet the controversy over the omission of the grief exclusion in the fifth edition of the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders revealed how competing definitions of grief persist with little consensus on whether grief should be considered a ‘natural’ process or as potentially pathological. In this paper I suggest that investigating what it means to recover first requires looking at the ways in which people who are seen as ‘failing’ to recover are managed and treated. In doing so I will argue that though the definitions of recovery from grief remain contested, there are theories, policies, and practices that seek to guide people who are grieving towards a vision of successful recovery.

‘Navigating the Liminal Space of Grief’, Between Spaces and Places, June.

It is often claimed that one’s sense of being in the world is disorientated at the event of loss. In this paper I seek to suggest that people who have been bereaved enter into a liminal space. Describing grief as a liminal space is to suggest that the boundaries that previously provided a secure understanding of the world and sense of self have, following bereavement, become destabilised or permeable. In my doctoral research I am exploring the role of the different places and people that populate the liminal space of grief. Following Tuan (Tuan, 1977, p.6) I am here distinguishing between ‘space’ and ‘place’. A place has a degree of permanence; it is secure and familiar. For example, the cemetery or the mortuary which have been the focus of research into death and landscapes, are physical, sanctioned ‘places’ in which death or grief come to inhabit, whereas ‘space’ has no set boundaries. Grief then is not simply something that comes to inhabit a place or something to be relocated, but is a place people transition into. Thinking of grief as a space of liminality can prevent against seeing grief as an extraordinary experience but rather as a rite of passage in which normative modes of living are suspended. Grief as a liminal space also sets out a social space in which grief is placed in the mundane, everyday aspects of living a life. It is not a phenomenon that exists purely in the psyche but in relation to other people, ideas and institutions. By viewing grief as a liminal space, grief is not taken for granted or presumed to possess a natural or normal process but can be seen to be constructed in different ways, in interaction with and being attached to historically specific contexts and discourses.

Tuan, Y.-F. (1977). Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience. London: Edward Arnold.

Recovery and getting over grief: Or ways of being human that were never sovereign. Theorising Normalcy and the Mundane, July.

In this paper I will argue why grief is an instance that allows for the recognition of the non-sovereignty of being human. Within a contemporary western neo-liberal context, being human is often presumed to involve having control over decision-making and responsibility for our choices. This is reflected in the rhetoric of mental health recovery where recovery is synonymous with being a functional citizen. To fail to recover is to refuse the normative fantasy of the ‘good life’ and to be read as problematic or as a troublemaker. In grief, the failure to recover is commonly associated with the failure to let go of an attachment to the deceased, described as ‘melancholia’ or in contemporary psychiatric diagnosis: ‘complicated grief’. However, contrary to the rhetoric of recovery, the failure to ‘let go’ of the deceased and the capacity for grief to make us come undone might alternatively be understood as an occasion that reveals how sovereignty is unsettled by affective experiences such as grief. If grief has the potential to inject some incoherence and ambiguity into our sense of self and sense of sovereignty by highlighting the complexity of attachments and relationality, what does this mean for how we think about the human?


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