Special Issue "Beyond the Negativity of Death: Towards a New Necropolitics"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2015).

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Steve Fuller

Department of Sociology, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +44 2476 523 940
Interests: history, philosophy and sociology of the sciences: transhumanism; science and religion; the future of the university; intellectual property
Guest Editor
Dr. Emilie Whitaker

School of Social Sciences, University of Cardiff, Cardiff CF10 3XQ, UK
Website | E-Mail
Interests: the re-negotiation of life-chances in the neo-liberal welfare state; esp. as applied to children and families; the trans/post-human divide

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

At least since Ernest Becker’s 1970s anthropological classic, The Denial of Death, but with precedents from Epicurus to Freud, death has been presented as the ultimate fact about the human condition, which while certainly not positive in its own right, only becomes more negative through its denial. This Special Issue is dedicated to denying the two assumptions in this line of thought: (1) that death is the negation of life; (2) that the terms of death are non-negotiable. In this respect, the Special Issue will develop positive, empowering attitudes toward death, perhaps even an ‘economy of death’, removing the sense of absoluteness that still surrounds the topic.

  • Death as the ultimate challenge for science to overcome to prove humanity’s supremacy: longevity medicine, cryonics.
  • Death as a moment in a process of rejuvenation or resurrection—a re-booting of life.
  • Benefits to reputation from either dying early or long ago: i.e., how absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Death as an opportunity for a new life, say, in a ‘digital afterlife’.
  • Death as a hypothetical perspective for regarding the world: i.e., the standpoint of quasi-human spiritual entities who no longer have a material investment in what they observe.
  • Death as an incentive for productivity in life: i.e., optimizing personal resources in a finite space and time to leave the greatest legacy.
  • Death as an occasion for the individual to validate the collective, say, through self-sacrifice.
  • Death as a normal and arguably even progressive feature of experimentation and innovation: e.g., the role of mutation and selection in evolution, the use of extreme experience to define the limits of life.
  • Models from the non-human world for adopting a positive attitude toward death: e.g., planned obsolescence, recycling.

Theoretical, empirical, and practice-based studies are welcomed, from any disciplinary or methodological perspective.

Prof. Steve Fuller
Dr. Emilie Whitaker
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Social Sciences is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

References
Crome, Keith. “The Nihilistic Affirmation of Life: Biopower and Biopolitics in the Will to Knowledge.Parrhesia 6 (2009): 46–61.
Foucault, Michel. The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1: The Will to Knowledge. New York:Pantheon Books, 1978.
Fuller, Steve. “Making Death Worth Its Cost: Prolegomena to any Future Necronomics.” In Death and Anti-Death, Vol. 11: Ten Years after Donald Davidson. Edited by Charles Tandy. Ann Arbor: Ria University Press, 2013, pp. 81–92.
Grzinic, Marina. “Biopolitics and Necropolitics in relation to the Lacanian four discourses.” Paper presented at the Symposium Art and Research: Shared Methodologies. Politics and Translation, Barcelona, Spain, 6–7 September 2012.
Mbembe, Achille. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture 15 (2003): 11–40 (Translated by Libby Menintjes).
Medovoi, Leerom. “Global Society Must Be Defended: Biopolitics Without Boundaries.” Social Text 25 (2007): 53–79.

Keywords

  • death
  • biopolitics
  • necropolitics
  • rejuvenation
  • resurrection
  • recycling
  • self-sacrifice

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Dead Spaces, Living Architecture and the Functionality of Death in Post-Conflict Settings
Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(4), 1118-1126; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci4041118
Received: 30 June 2015 / Revised: 2 November 2015 / Accepted: 12 November 2015 / Published: 20 November 2015
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Abstract
Death has the ability to influence an architectural site in such a way that it defines its identity. Bullet holes, political graffiti, and scarred buildings are evidence of past events that have involved death and continue to do so. However, recognizing death through [...] Read more.
Death has the ability to influence an architectural site in such a way that it defines its identity. Bullet holes, political graffiti, and scarred buildings are evidence of past events that have involved death and continue to do so. However, recognizing death through these sites allows post-conflict nations a chance to construct a narrative that was once hidden away. These sites allow death to function in a positive manner—if amnesia-driven urban development projects do not erase them first, that is. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Negativity of Death: Towards a New Necropolitics)
Open AccessArticle
Death, Entropy, Creativity and Perpetual Perishing: Some Thoughts from Whitehead and Stengers
Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(3), 655-667; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci4030655
Received: 28 June 2015 / Accepted: 18 August 2015 / Published: 28 August 2015
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Abstract
In this paper, I argue that we need to rethink how we conceive of death as “inevitable”. There are two main strands to my analysis. First, I use the work of Stengers to trace the complex and, occasionally, contradictory ways in which the [...] Read more.
In this paper, I argue that we need to rethink how we conceive of death as “inevitable”. There are two main strands to my analysis. First, I use the work of Stengers to trace the complex and, occasionally, contradictory ways in which the concept of entropy was developed within physics in the 19th and 20th century. I argue that this has led to a general but ill-conceived notion of the universe as wasting away, as dying. This is a form of inevitability which has infected our understanding of what constitutes the death of individual humans. I then turn to the contrast that Whitehead draws between creativity and “perpetual perishing”. I suggest that this contrast might help us to develop a wider, more coherent, approach to thinking about the status of death, and its supposed inevitability. In the final section, I reflect upon my father’s death in 2013 in light of some of the concepts and problems raised throughout the paper. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Negativity of Death: Towards a New Necropolitics)
Open AccessArticle
The “A Graceful Death Exhibition”: Portraits and Words from the End of Life
Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(3), 598-611; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci4030598
Received: 17 June 2015 / Revised: 16 July 2015 / Accepted: 28 July 2015 / Published: 11 August 2015
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Abstract
This article discusses the lack of knowledge and awareness that hampers end of life experiences, for both the dying and those left behind. It draws on personal experiences, and explores working creatively with dying people, using observations, painting and writing to communicate ideas. [...] Read more.
This article discusses the lack of knowledge and awareness that hampers end of life experiences, for both the dying and those left behind. It draws on personal experiences, and explores working creatively with dying people, using observations, painting and writing to communicate ideas. Asking the dying to tell us and show us what it is like is very successful in raising awareness, and the article concludes that less separation within our communities from the dying would normalise the process and lessen the fear. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Negativity of Death: Towards a New Necropolitics)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Who Wants to Live Forever? Living, Dying and Grieving in Our Digital Society
Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(4), 1127-1139; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci4041127
Received: 21 July 2015 / Revised: 8 November 2015 / Accepted: 18 November 2015 / Published: 20 November 2015
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Abstract
Almost ubiquitous hardware technology, such as smart phones, ensures that social networking sites are part of users’ everyday norms and routines. However, some are now using these new communication technologies to deal with the issues of death, dying and grief. With the hope [...] Read more.
Almost ubiquitous hardware technology, such as smart phones, ensures that social networking sites are part of users’ everyday norms and routines. However, some are now using these new communication technologies to deal with the issues of death, dying and grief. With the hope of being able to create digital memories to leave behind for future generations, the opportunity to “live on” and become digitally immortal is seen as empowering to some: but what about those left behind? Through a review of the current literature exploring how social media are being used as a new space to grieve and mourn, this paper contributes to the literature by arguing for the need for clarity in the lexicon being used by thanatologists and other disciplines. Furthermore, it introduces the term “digital zombie” to describe the dead who remain “alive” in our digital society. The paper concludes by joining the call for further research into the nascent phenomena being generated by human-computer interaction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Negativity of Death: Towards a New Necropolitics)
Open AccessReview
An Appreciative View of the Brighter Side of Terror Management Processes
Soc. Sci. 2015, 4(4), 1020-1045; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci4041020
Received: 11 August 2015 / Revised: 24 September 2015 / Accepted: 14 October 2015 / Published: 30 October 2015
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (254 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Physical death is an inevitable part of life. From the perspective of terror management theory (TMT), people’s efforts to manage the awareness of death can sometimes have harmful social consequences. However, those negative consequences are merely one side of the existential coin. In [...] Read more.
Physical death is an inevitable part of life. From the perspective of terror management theory (TMT), people’s efforts to manage the awareness of death can sometimes have harmful social consequences. However, those negative consequences are merely one side of the existential coin. In considering the other side of the coin, the present article highlights the more beneficial trajectories of the terror management process. For example, the awareness of mortality can motivate people to prioritize their physical health; uphold prosocial values; build loving relationships and peaceful, charitable communities; and foster open-mindedness. Further, the article explores the possible balance between defense and growth motivations, including the motivations toward integrative self-expansion, creativity, and well-being. And finally, we tentatively consider the potential positive impacts of direct confrontations with mortality on terror management processes. In sum, the present analysis suggests that although death awareness can sometimes produce some harmful outcomes, at least under certain conditions it can also motivate attitudes and behaviors that have positive personal and social consequences. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Beyond the Negativity of Death: Towards a New Necropolitics)
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