Creating Time and Space

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Paper at ECREA, Istanbul October 27th 2012

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Creating Time and Space

  1. 1. Dorthe Refslund Christensen & Kjetil SandvikAssociate professors, Copenhagen & Aarhus University respectively, MAs, Ph.d.sCREATING SPACE AND TIME. RITUALIZEDPRACTICES AT MEMORIAL SITES FOR DEADCHILDREN 1ECREA ISTANBUL TURKEY, OCTOBER 25.-27. 2012
  2. 2. METHODS Text analysis: what is being communicated at Mindet.dk, and how Cultural analysis: Mindet.dk in context  Field work on childrens graves in Aarhus Media analysis: the role of mediation and re- mediation 2
  3. 3. Established 2000 by private person, taken950 individual over 2008 by Danishmemory profiles newspaper Light a candle (thousands) Open/public forum Guestbook (one for each memory profile) Forum wih 26 entries with different topics Links to different readings on and sites about death, grief and mourning 3
  4. 4. ”DEATH ENDS A LIFE, NOT A RELATIONSHIP” Stillborn children Death of children and young ones Death of adults with a small majority of sudden and tragic deathIn our work we focus on the memories for stillborns and children (overrepresentation compared to annual death statistics) 4
  5. 5. METHOD THEORY FRAMING Narrative time (Ricoeur) Performativity (Butler) Timework, doing time (Flaherty) Ritualizations (Bell, Seligman et al.) Chronotope (Bakhtin) 5
  6. 6. TIMEWORK & RITUALIZATIONS The ritual work performed at Mindet.dk is complex and diverse. However, in this presentation we apply a ‘time’- perspective as our analytical take on these practices Hypothesis: With the death of very young children, time itself is utterly distorted and the future of the parents is disappearing while the presence is folded into the past leaving the parents in some kind of non-time We have studied how parents on Mindet.dk engage in ritualizations in which ‘timework’ plays a huge role and how these practices aims at re-enrolling the parents in a temporal reality where past, present and future exists and can be appropriated, negotiated and, eventually, inhabited by the parents again 6
  7. 7. TIMEWORK & RITUALIZATIONS Mourning ritualizations at Mindet.dk can productively be analyzed as timework: by engaging in different kinds of timework at Mindet.dk, the mourners are eventually transforming past into a time they can live with as opposed to past being a time they live in. The dead child is transformed from ‘the child that did not live’ causing a paralyzing timer-space of shattered hopes and broken dreams: the family that never came to be, the parenthood that never happened, to ‘the child that exists elsewhere’ with close connections to the new life – the new narrative – of the parents. The parents do this by narrating the life and death of the lost child and by continously performing parenthood on- and offline 7
  8. 8. 3 PHASES OF GRIEFWe suggest that 3 different chronological phases of griefcan be identified at Mindet.dk. 1. Establishing a memory profile at Mindet.dk 2. Staying alive and performing parenthood (lighting candles, inventing memories 3. New narratives/new directions in life 8
  9. 9. PERFORMATIVE TIME-MAKING The restoration of life – of the present – as a meaning-making entity by ways of re-working and re-telling the past in order to re-invent the future thus transforming it into something else than a paralyzing factor, and by applying the subjunctive aspects of ritualization inscribing the loss and memories of the child and its potential future as a bearable part of the life to be. 9
  10. 10. Past Present FuturePreparing for Imagining/expecting Parents-to-beparent-hood parenthood Life as a signifying structure Before the death of the child
  11. 11. 1. ESTABLISHING A MEMORY PROFILE Past Present Future Preparing for parent-hood Expextations of rendered meaningless Parents-not-to-be X parenthood lost The collapse of life as a signifying structure
  12. 12. 2. STAYING ALIVE AND PERFORMINGPARENTHOOD THROUGH ONGOING RITUALPRACTICES (CANDLES, SUBJUNCTIVEMEMORIES) Past Present Future Expectation of a Plans that had to Parents to a dead new future for the change, invented child (and maybe to living and a memories new children) subjunctive future Documentation: a very short life (if any) is turned into thoroughly narrated life (or moment in time) in order to change a narrative which you can’t make sense of (the paralyzing “WHY?!?!”) into a narrative which you can related to and cope with: establishing the narrative of the child (you were here, you were someone) into a creative agency for further life: narratives of the future
  13. 13. 3. NEW NARRATIVES/NEW DIRECTIONS IN LIFE Time-space of the dead The parallel life of the dead child, which is being remembered, adressed and assigned special qualities by the living (the parents and others) Spending time Past Present Future Expectation of a Plans that had to Parents to a dead new future for the change, invented child (and maybe to living and a memories new children) subjunctive future The dead child is turned into a superhuman agent living in a parallel universe that can be approached in a dialogic way – and is used as a positive force (even though it still hurts…) and the parents are obviously moving on.
  14. 14.  They who lights candles after 4 years writing: today was dad’s birthday and you should have been here and the day was horrible because you weren’t, will continue having a hard time coping and the past is still an unescapable space of loss and grief. They who lights a candle after 4 years but instead writes: today was dad’s birthday and it was wonderful that you were smiling down at us from your little cloud in heaven. It made dad happy – they have moved on and have transformed the loss/the lost child into a creative force inventing new narratives, new memories. 14
  15. 15. PROJECT & CONTEXT Sharing Death: studies of Mindet.dk and Danish children’s graves since 2008 Now part of a 4 year research project: Death, Materiality and the Origins of Time (headed by Prof. Rane Willerslev, Museum of Cultural History, Oslo) http://deathmaterialitytime.org/ 4 volume series, Studies in Death, Materiality and the Origin of Time on Ashgate Publishers edited by Dorthe Refslund Christensen & Rane Willerslev The results we present today will appear in the first volume, Taming Time – Timing Death. Social Technologies and Ritual published in Feb 2013 The second volume, Mediating and Re-mediating death edited by us will appear late 2013 15

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