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"So Sorry for the Loss of Your Little Friend": Pets’ Grievability in Condolence Cards for Humans Mourning Animals
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Technology, Department of Engineering Sciences, Industrial Engineering & Management. (HumAnimal Group, Cultural Matters Group)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9902-1191
2016 (English)In: Mourning Animals: Rituals and Practices Surrounding Animal Death / [ed] Margo DeMello, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016, 1, 101-108 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

To send a condolence card is not only to recognize someone’s pain, but to recognize this pain in a specific way, contributing to a shared social understanding what the loss in question might mean to the bereaved person and the people around him or her. While many themes in condolence cards for companion animals resemble ‘human’ condolence cards, these cards also challenge non-human animals’ status as grievable: companion animals are recurrently represented as replaceable to some extent, the loss is sometimes framed as predictable or in other ways manageable, and the many objectifying depictions of non-human bodies in the cards suggest a lack of embodied empathy with non-human animals. Redmalm thus argues that this risks belittling or rejecting the grief for a lost companion animal. On the other, this genre of condolence cards also makes possible ways to represent loss and death in quite explicit ways, challenging the Western taboo around death. Some cards also challenge the hierarchical human/animal distinction, emphasizing non-human animals’ status as kin, in spite of the difference in kind. The chapter concludes by suggesting that condolence cards for bereaved pet owners tend to give non-human animals the status of ‘werewolves’, using Giorgio Agamben’s term for beings existing in the liminal space between grievable and lose-able. Because the cards represent companion animals as being simultaneously grievable and ungrievable—as human and non-human—they accentuate the werewolf status of these beings and the problematic distinction between human and animal. The cards that succeed in recognizing the grief for a ‘werewolf’, the chapter argues, pose a serious challenge to the differential allocation of grievability and the anthropocentric politics of kin and kind.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2016, 1. 101-108 p.
, The Animal Turn
Keyword [en]
Afterlife, Giorgio Agamben, Anthropocentrism, Anthropological machine, Bereavement, Companion Animals, Condolence Cards, Death, Domestic Animals, Dying, Euthanasia, Grief, Heaven, Loss, Mourning, Mutts, Paradise, Pets, Qualitative Analysis, Souls, Subjectivity, Sympathy Cards, Werewolves, Visual Analysis.
National Category
Sociology Business Administration Social Psychology Cultural Studies Gender Studies Engineering and Technology
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-304987ISBN: 9781611862126OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-304987DiVA: diva2:1034314
Intimate Sociality: Practice and Identity in Collective Housing, Human-Animal Relations and Couple Dancing
Available from: 2016-10-11 Created: 2016-10-11 Last updated: 2016-10-12

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