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Lankhorst, H.W.

Auteur: Hermien Lankhorst
Afstudeerjaar: 2011 (Research Master)
Vakgroep: Praktische Filosofie
Titel: The Philosophy of Decomposition. A thesis about the human body in the context of death
Bodily processes are crucial for understanding the circumstances of people who are dead or dying, just as they are important for the people who witness and have to deal with those events. Since I feel that these bodily aspects are important but have received little attention, they (in particular the decomposition of the body) are the focal point of my thesis.
There are two main goals. The first one is to show that bodily aspects of death are important when it comes to attaining a better and richer understanding of practices concerning the death of humans. The second goal is to approach decomposition in a way that is inspired by Bruno Latour and embodiment studies. This renewed focus on the body in its materiality shows how the body is made up of many things, how it is a question of becoming, rather than being, a process instead of a static object. In a kind of contradictory way, then, attention for the body in this way leads automatically to looking beyond the body, in other words, looking at the body as an ungraspable part of the environment, while itself being a continual production of several human and non-human actors.
Three important practices and phenomena that are highlighted in the thesis, the laying out of the body, taphephobia (the fear of being buried alive) and vampirism, all show that there are many assumptions about how a dead body behaves. Practices are very much focused on dealing with this behaviour and with moments when a body acts in a way that differs from what appears to be normal.
Because of the focus on the body and the consequent look beyond the body to a wider network of actors, two developments come to the fore. In the first place, we discern the fear of a body not composing as quickly as expected that turns slowly into the fear of decomposition and attempts to delay it. The second development that I discuss is the diminishing role of the body in funerary practices. To shed more light on these two developments, our gaze is directed beyond the body, to all the different actors the body is connected to. So ultimately, the phenomena and developments that become visible by virtue of concentrating on the body are most lucid when one looks beyond the body.
Laatst gewijzigd:01 november 2013 14:11