CFP — Economies of Death: Economic logics of killable life and grievable death

The annual Association American of Geographers  meeting is  a while away yet, and normally the early calls for papers send me into panic mode. Not this time: receiving the following CFP just makes me excited about what looks to be a well thought out and far-ranging discussion on economies of life and death.  Details below.

Patricia Lopez (Geography, University of Washington)
Kathryn Gillespie (Geography, University of Washington)

How and why are certain lives and bodies made killable and certain deaths made grievable? What does a close analysis of death in various contexts uncover about political economic processes and the violence or erasures involved in these social relations? What can particular case studies of death in the framework of grievability and killability contribute to a theory of economies of death? This paper session is interested in taking “economies of death” beyond death studies as encompassed by hospice care, tissues economies, organ markets, and bereavement, toward a broader conceptualization of how the valuations of bodies and places are written through an economic logic. How does this economic logic make certain lives and deaths matter more than others? How can conversations across sub-disciplines within geography and beyond illuminate insights that respond to these kinds of questions?

Judith Butler’s work aims to disentangle “what counts as a livable life and a grievable death” (2004, xv) in relation to American foreign policy as she asks us to think about the way different lives are valued or devalued. Donna Haraway observes that certain lives (animal lives, in particular) are ‘made killable’ by their positioning in social hierarchies of dominance (e.g., Haraway 2007). In this vein, we start with the premise that grievability and killability are governed closely by the economic logics that work to obscure important moral frameworks and ethical social relations.  As geographers, we are in a unique position to uncover the nuanced ways in which these processes of making grievable and killable are repetitive and knowable, even as they are particular in their contextualization. In this, we seek papers that explore the possible pathways opened by thinking through economies of death, beyond legally codified relations and political ends into a social ontology that “demand[s] and enable[s] response, not bare calculation or ranking” (Haraway 2009, 116). Thus, we are also interested in exploring a moral framework that confronts the hierarchy of lives and deaths and its embeddedness within political economic processes of production, consumption, extraction, foreign policy, etc.

We hope to bring together a wide range of case studies in this session to give a more grounded theory of economies of death uncovering how this theory does not exist in isolation – that it might be taken up, applied, and grounded across multiple boundaries (of location, ‘race,’ class, gender, species). By framing this session around such varied case studies, we are seeking to open up a conversation between sub-disciplines within geography (and beyond) to examine the ways that localized economies of death show a specificity that is politically and ethically engaged. And while we don’t want to lose the specificity of a close analysis of one place or entity, we do want to engage in a knowledge-making practice and the construction of a theoretical framework that can be taken up and understood in more varied contexts.

Topics may include (but are certainly not limited to):

·       Technologies employed in spaces of war, occupation, and sanction which operate to calculate approximations of a perceived balance between ‘common good’ and ‘necessary evil’ (i.e., ‘collateral damage’)

·       The commodification of life which lends itself to such enactments (and subsequent erasures) of human and animal slavery, the slaughtering and rendering of animal bodies, the disappearances of women across the globe, etc.;

·       The commodification of the body over the lifecourse – how this varies depending on ‘race,’ class, gender, location, species;

·       The death of ecological landscapes through processes of natural resource extraction and climate change;

·       The differential treatment and disposal of dead bodies – both animal and human;

·       The politics of incarceration and capital punishment;

·       The representation and sensationalization of death and (some) dead bodies in art, literature, and popular media (to include movies, social media, news, etc.)

Abstract submissions: Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words to Patricia Lopez ( and Kathryn Gillespie ( by November 4, 2013.

One Comment

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  1. Reblogged this on Questioning Animal and commented:
    Geography & CAS: A CFP for next year’s AAG conference. Looks like potential for a very compelling discussion.

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