Death and Governmentality: Neo-liberalism, Grief and the Nation-form

Arnar Árnason og Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson
Opinn aðgangur

This book is a contribution to debates concerning the state of death in the contemporary Western world. Taking up the argument that death there has recently undergone a revival, the book problematizes the idea that this revival is caused by general trends in society for example rising individualism. The book describes a link between the revival of death in Iceland and neo-liberal governmentality, in particular the machinery by means of which modern citizens are enjoined to govern themselves.

The book draws on extensive ethnographic fieldwork on the changing regimes of dying and grieving in Iceland since the year 2000. The ethnography reflects how the old Icelandic solution of ‘locking death away in a drawer’ is being replaced by an allegedly healthier option of ‘dealing openly’ with death and grief. The changes in the management of death and grief in Iceland have taken place in the context of a neo-liberal governmentality. The rise of neo-liberalism has been accompanied by a rhetoric that emphasises self-reliance, personal responsibility and individual initiative, private enterprise and personal improvement The authors suggest that the changing regimes of death and grief should be placed in this context. The book reflects on linkages between death and   grief, the fluctuating fortunes of the ‘nation form’ in Iceland and the different ways in which political power can be legitimised through the changing relations between ‘nation’, ‘state’ and ‘individual’.     

Höfundar eru mannfræðingarnir Arnar Árnason við Aberdeen-háskóla og Sigurjón Baldur Hafsteinsson við Háskóla Íslands. Anne Allison, prófessor við Duke University, segir svo um verkið:  “I found Death and Governmentality to be compelling from beginning to end. Well-written, clearly argued, and historically situated, the book takes on the subject of grief and death in the context of recent socio-economic shifts in Iceland. The book is a wonderful achievement, taking on a subject that is at once timely and important, and giving it a treatment that is theoretically and ethnographically sound.

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