Death and the City: Female Public Suicide and Meaningful Space in Modern Mexico City

Sloan, K. A. (2015). Death and the City Female Public Suicide and Meaningful Space in Modern Mexico City. Journal of Urban History, 0096144214566973.

Poised on the cusp of the twentieth century, many urban citizens believed their societies to be sickened by suicide epidemics. It was assumed that rapid modernization and technological advance caused some individuals to develop nervous conditions that negated their impulses for self-preservation. Although statistical evidence pointed to higher rates of suicide among adult men, society believed that youth and women were most vulnerable to the epidemic. This article examines cases of young women carefully planning their suicides in symbolic spaces of Mexico City. It argues that public suicides made self-conscious decisions on how they would die, in particular choosing the sites of their deaths for their cultural meanings. How society viewed their deaths depended upon their virtue in life; nevertheless, Mexicans perpetuated their culture of commemorating the dead by erecting ephemeral memorials at the sites of death.

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In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India

Chua, J. L. (2014). In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India. Univ of California Press.

Chua

Once celebrated as a model development for its progressive social indicators, the southern Indian state of Kerala has earned the new distinction as the nation’s suicide capital, with suicide rates soaring to triple the national average since 1990. Rather than an aberration on the path to development and modernity, Keralites understand this crisis to be the bitter fruit borne of these historical struggles and the aspirational dilemmas they have produced in everyday life. Suicide, therefore, offers a powerful lens onto the experiential and affective dimensions of development and global change in the postcolonial world.

In the long shadow of fear and uncertainty that suicide casts in Kerala, living acquires new meaning and contours. In this powerful ethnography, Jocelyn Chua draws on years of fieldwork to broaden the field of vision beyond suicide as the termination of life, considering how suicide generates new ways of living in these anxious times.

“Suicidology as a Social Practice”: A Reply

Widger, Tom “‘Suicidology as a Social Practice’: A Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4, no. 3 (2015): 1-4. http://social-epistemology.com/2015/02/01/suicidology-as-a-social-practice-a-reply-tom-widger/

In their excellent and provocative article ‘Suicidology as a Social Practice’ (2014), Scott Fitzpatrick, Claire Hooker, and Ian Kerridge extend the literature ‘historicizing’ the study of suicide to provide an account of the field’s constituting norms and behaviours. Thus, and underpinning the article, a solid body of work now exists which points out how during the 19th century suicide became a problem for nomothetic social and medical study and intervention due to a confluence of factors including the development of state mechanisms for counting and classifying deaths alongside moral concerns over the effects of modernisation. These studies have shown how the designation by sociologists and psychologists of ‘suicide’ as a particular kind of problem (of ‘”self”-destruction’) and of ‘suicidal people’ as particular kinds of people (as suffering from some kind of illness), generated a new understanding of suicide that was radically different to what had gone before. This new understanding transformed the idea of suicide from one of theological, philosophical, legal, and aesthetical ‘interest’ to one of social and psychiatric ‘concern.’

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Suicidology as a Social Practice

Fitzpatrick, S. J., Hooker, C., & Kerridge, I. (2014). Suicidology as a Social Practice. Social Epistemology, (ahead-of-print), 1-20.DOI:10.1080/02691728.2014.895448

Suicide has long been the subject of philosophical, literary, theological and cultural–historical inquiry. But despite the diversity of disciplinary and methodological approaches that have been brought to bear in the study of suicide, we argue that the formal study of suicide, that is, suicidology, is characterized by intellectual, organizational and professional values that distinguish it from other ways of thinking and knowing. Further, we suggest that considering suicidology as a “social practice” offers ways to usefully conceptualize its epistemological, philosophical and practical norms. This study develops the idea of suicidology as a social practice and considers the implications for research, practice and public discourse.

Farmers’ Suicides as Public Death: Politics, Agency and Statistics in a Suicide-Prone District (South India)

Münster, D. N. (2014). Farmers’ Suicides as Public Death: Politics, Agency and Statistics in a Suicide-Prone District (South India). Modern Asian Studies, 1-26.

This paper argues that Indian farmers’ suicides may fruitfully be described as public deaths. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in the South Indian district of Wayanad (Kerala), it shows that farmers’ suicides become ‘public deaths’ only via the enumerative and statistical practices of the Indian state and their scandalization in the media. The political nature of suicide as public death thus depends entirely on suicide rates and their production by the state itself. But the power of representations complicates the ethnographic critique of statistical knowledge about suicide. In a context like Wayanad, which had been declared a suicide-prone district by the Indian state, public representations of suicides have taken on a life of their own; statistical categories and the media interpretations of these statistics have had a curious feedback—mediated by development encounters—onto the situated meanings of individual suicides. Local interpretations of individual suicides mostly commented on personal failures of the suicide and on the perils of speculative smallholder agriculture. Ethnography of farmers’ suicide based on case studies alone, however, would soon encounter limitations equally grave as the limitations of statistical analysis. Not only is the meaning of suicide (intentions, causes, motives) at the actor level off limits for ethnography, but in addition to that the (public) meaning of suicide is co-determined by state practice including statistical accounting.

Unikkaartuit: Meanings and Experiences of Suicide Among Inuit in Nunavut, Canada

Kral, M. J., Idlout, L., Minore, J. B., Dyck, R. J., & Kirmayer, L. J. (2014). Unikkaartuit: Meanings and Experiences of Suicide Among Inuit in Nunavut, Canada. International Journal of Indigenous Health, 10(1), 55-67.

Inuit in Arctic Canada have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Most of these suicides occur among youth, especially males, between the ages of 15 and 24. The goal of this study was to gain an understanding of Inuit experiences with suicide and what suicide means to Inuit, including suicide attempters and bereaved survivors. Fifty Inuit between the ages of 14 and 94 were interviewed about suicides in two communities in Nunavut. Sixty-three high school and college students were also surveyed with the same questions. It was found that suicide was most closely related to romantic relationship and family problems, and to experiences of loneliness and anger. These findings are interpreted in the context of massive social change, on-going colonization, and multigenerational trauma following the colonial government era of the 1950s and 1960s, when family and interpersonal relationships were significantly affected. The study stresses that suicide prevention strategies focus on youth and family, particularly on parenting, and ensure that Inuit communities take control of prevention programs. It recommends that family and community resources be further mobilized for suicide prevention.

Narrating death: affective reworking of suicide in rural Greece

Pipyrou, S. (2014). Narrating death: affective reworking of suicide in rural Greece. Social Anthropology, 22(2), 189-199. DOI: 10.1111/1469-8676.12069

This paper examines cases of suicide in rural Greece where the deceased have been provided with new affective narratives that detract from the circumstances of death. Living relatives redirect public attention away from the social taboo of suicide by reconfiguring affective stories that appeal to the local tool-kit for dealing with unexpected death. Resultantly, the reputation of the family remains untainted by the connotations of immorality and insanity that suicide carries. Grabbing public attention, the affective story rouses sympathy for the victim and their family, whilst cultivating abhorrence towards a culprit, representing a final mark of respect to the dead person.