By Nico Carpentier and Leen Van Brussel
Death is frequently seen as the ultimate manifestation of materiality. Without denying this materiality, this article will investigate the discursive character of death and its contingent nature, through the lens of Laclau and Mouffe’s [(1985). Hegemony and social strategy: Towards a radical democratic politics. London: Verso] discourse theory. First, the core elements of the (Western) discourse of death, such as end/cessation/termination, negativity, irreversibility, inescapability, and undesirability, in combination with life as death’s constitutive outside, will be analysed, showing the specificity of this discourse of death. The contingency of death is argued further from a more genealogical stance, through the changes over time in the articulation of death and good death. Finally, the political nature of the discourse of death is illustrated by an analysis of end-of-life debates and the struggle between the hospice and the right-to-die social movements over the exact articulation of a good death. The article concludes by pointing to the necessary and constitutive failure of discourse to capture the materiality of death.
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