Difficult Death: Challenging Cultural Representations of Death, Dying and the Dead in Media and Culture

deadline for submissions: 
January 5, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Dr Sharon Coleclough, Dr Bethan Michael-Fox, Dr Renske Visser

Call for Chapters for Edited Collection

 

Difficult Death: Challenging Cultural Representations of Death, Dying and the Dead in Media and Culture

 

Deadline: Monday 1 May 2021

 

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

 

You are invited to submit 300-word abstracts for the forthcoming edited collection provisionally titled Difficult Death: Challenging Cultural Representations of Death, Dying and the Dead in Media and Culture. The interdisciplinary collection seeks to examine a range of representations of and engagement with death and dying across different media and cultural forms including film, television, new media, journalism, performing arts and literature. With a media and cultural studies focus, the collection will examine some of the difficulties and challenges of representing death, dying and the dead whilst also exploring ‘difficult’ and ‘challenging’ representations of these subjects as important objects of analysis in themselves. We welcome contributions from all disciplines and approaches and from those working within and beyond academia.

 

Context

 

Death and dying are difficult to avoid both in the global media and in popular culture. At times the representation of death, dying and the dead can be especially challenging for viewers. Yet at other times it can offer solace, escapism, or provoke engagement  with mortality. Penfold-Mounce (2018) has examined how different popular cultural texts can promote both ‘safe’ and ‘provocative’ morbid spaces for engagement with death and the dead. For those who create cultural texts, ranging from novels to journalism to film and television, how to engage with and represent death, dying and the dead also represents particular challenges. Often, texts can themselves be challenged by those who engage with them for the difficult, revealing or problematic ways that they represent death. For example, as Luckhurst (2016) has argued, the representation of the living dead in zombie horror can be read as a form of social realism with its own necropolitics (Mbembe, 2003). From depictions of real or ‘natural’ death in documentary, journalism or narrative to dramatic depictions of violent deaths and the (un)dead in literature, film and television, there is ample opportunity to explore the ways in which death can be represented in difficult ways, can raise difficult questions, and can be difficult to engage with in media and culture. 

 

Writing on death spans and transcends all academic disciplines, though much writing has recently found a locus in the developing field of Death Studies. Within Journalism Studies, more might be written about the interactions with death that many journalists encounter and must, as part of their career, prepare for. From the ‘death knock’ to reporting sensitive and traumatic events, investigations into this aspect of reporting tend to offer ethical guidance (see Luce, 2019) rather than a full exploration of the area. More research and discussion has taken place around photographic journalism and its encounters with death, with Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others (2003) and Barthes’ Camera Lucida (2000) offering widely cited explorations of the effect of photographic representation of the traumatised, dying and the dead. There are also photographers noted for their work in this area including Joel-Peter Witkin, Andreas Serrano (Morgue Series), Luc Delahaye and Robert Capa, all who have explored death through the camera lens.

 

Contributions

 

Contributions might focus on:

  • Representations of death and the dead in film, television and new media that can be read as ‘challenging’, or that might benefit from being ‘challenged’
  • The challenges of reporting on death and dying
  • The ways media can shape and inform responses to death and dying
  • Cultural engagement with and representations of deaths often positioned or perceived as especially ‘difficult’ or ‘challenging’ (suicide, migrant deaths)
  • Representations of ageing as a ‘problem’ in ways that conflate ageing and death
  • The representation of difficult choices around euthanasia and palliative care

 

At this stage, we have initial interest from two global publishers and will be submitting a full proposal once chapter abstracts have been collated. Authors will be contacted by 1 June to confirm whether their chapter has been selected and will be kept informed throughout the process.

 

300-word abstracts along with a brief biography of no more than 150 words should be sent to difficultdeadbook@gmail.com by 1 May 2021.

 

Please send any queries to difficultdeadbook@gmail.com

 

References

 

Barthes, R. (2000) Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

 

Luce, A.  (2019) Ethical Reporting of Sensitive Topics. London: Routledge.

 

Luckhurst, R. (2016) Zombies: A Cultural History. London: Reaktion Books.

 

Mbembe, A. (2003) ‘Necropolitics’, trans. Libby Meintjes. Public Culture 15.1, 11-40. Doi. 10.1215/08992363-15-1-11

 

Penfold-Mounce, R. (2018) Death, the Dead and Popular Culture. Bingley: Emerald.

 

Sontag, S. (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Penguin.

 

Editor Biographies

 

Dr. Sharon Coleclough is Senior Lecturer in Film Production and Sound Design at Staffordshire University. Her work combines the theory and practice of moving image production, and the ways in which meaning is created through the technical application of craft.  Recent publications consider the relationship of sound and the city focussing upon the city of Berlin, with additional journal articles exploring representation through the relationship of BAME actors to lighting and camera and the concept of the outsider in cinema and television.  A contributor to the Learning on Screen (LoS) inspiring lecture series, Sharon’s work was also selected as the LoS’s contribution to Black History Month, 2020. She has a forthcoming chapter in the MacFarland Press publication The Theology of Zombies in which she explores the concept of the sentient zombie in television. Sharon works internationally on a collaborative digital project, “The Laptop Tour” which considers the ways performance can be realised through the use of technology.

 

Dr. Bethan Michael-Fox, FRSA, SFHEA, works as an Associate Lecturer for the Open University, teaching a range of English literature, creative writing, interdisciplinary humanities and reflective learning modules. She is an Honorary Associate in the School of English and Creative Writing at the Open University and a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Bath’s Centre for Death and Society (CDAS). She is the Editorial Officer for Mortality, a Taylor and Francis journal promoting the interdisciplinary study of death and dying, and a representative for the Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS). She is currently working on a project on the representation of student suicide in documentary television with Dr Kay Calver at the University of Northampton. She is also editing a special issue of the academic journal Revenant with Dr Renske Visser and has published a range of academic journal articles, book chapters and an edited collection. 

 

Dr. Renske Visser is a Research Fellow at the University of Surrey, currently conducting research on cancer care in English prisons. She completed her PhD on homemaking in later life at the Centre for Death and Society at the University of Bath.  Her background is in Medical Anthropology and she has a wide interest in issues around ageing, dying and death, particularly in the role of place and space in shaping end of life experiences. Her Master’s explored the way parentally bereaved Dutch young adults continue bonds with their lost parent through the use of material culture. She has published a range of academic articles in journals such as Mortality, Death Studies, Home Cultures and The Journal of Mental Health and is currently co-editing a special issue on Death in the Margins with Dr Candi Cann and a special issue on Death and the Screen with Dr Beth Michael-Fox. She is also the Postdoctoral Representative of the Association for the Study of Death and Society (ASDS).