A funeral for a glacier: Mourning the more-than-human at the edge of modernity

Arnar Arnason* (Corresponding Author), Sigurjón Baldur Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Many have argued that contemporary western societies, broadly conceived, are moving towards a greater openness towards death and the public display of grief. While this development does perhaps not constitute a return to the ‘tame death’ that Ariès spoke of, it certainly points to a situation at some remove from the ‘taboo’ around death, the ‘wild death’ that Gorer (1965) and Ariès (1974a, 1974b), respectively, argued had overtaken ‘modern’ western societies. The point has been made, that examples of this new (alleged) openness towards death, include the emerging possibilities to mourn losses that until recently remained hidden. In many contemporary western contexts, for example, aborted foetuses and stillborn babies, that not so long ago would have been disposed of privately, are now publicly mourned. Similarly, pets, whose non-humanity until recently removed them from processes of public mourning, are now legitimate objects of the public expression of grief. In this paper we focus on the mourning of the glacier Ok in Iceland, as an example of how this trend is now extending to the loss of natural phenomena. Drawing on Cunsolo Willox’s work and bringing together the recent literature on the more-than-human and the new materialisms, on one hand, and literature that speaks of the links between ‘modernity’, mourning and loss, on the other, we ask if the trends hinted at above signal a change, a rupture, or the continuation of mourning that has always been part of the modernity experience.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-71
Number of pages24
JournalThanatos
Volume9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2020

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