Critical South Asian Death Studies

© Yash Gupta

Conceived by a team of students at the University of Münster, The First International Conference on Critical South Asian Death Studies situates itself in the conspicuous gaps engendered by dominant traditions in the study of Death. Death Studies as a discipline is widely conceived from within individualist, white Western hegemonies and through their appendant epistemologies that foreclose engagements with, among others, South Asian relationalities, belief systems, and established structures of mourning (see Radomska et al., 2020; Thacker and Duran, 2020). Followingly, the conference pays heed to critical approaches to death, dying, grieving and end-of-life care in South Asia; mobilizing critical, intersectional, and radical contextualisms that emphasize distinct bio-medical, metaphorical, cultural, and social forms of death.

As such, this conference locates itself within traditions of Critical South Asian Death Studies (CSADS), which operationalises such a lens to mark a departure from conventional death research and practice by centring the deep complexities of South Asia. CSADS attends to, in norm-critical manners, the necropolitical agendas that underlie the concerns of positionality in South Asia. It calls attention to the varied socio-cultural, economic, political, historical, ethical, ontological and epistemological aspects that underpin South Asianness, with a distinct resonance to experiences of ‘marginalisation.’ Not only so, but it also centres empowering narratives of postcolonial reclamations, subversive necropolitics, non-textual spaces, and oral histories. However, in centring ‘South Asia’, we, the conference committee, are aware of the conceptual problems that characterise the term. In cognizance of the constantly shifting geographies of the region, it would be fallacious to read cultures to be coterminous with territories.  Thus, we refrain from prescriptive delineation in broaching South Asia, instead acknowledging the creative, critical and complex ways bodies can inhabit South Asia, and South Asia can come to label spaces and processes. 

Rooted in these contours, The First International Conference on Critical South Asian Death Studies, to be held on the 18th-20th of April 2024, calls for interdisciplinary presentations and performances by scholars in all stages of their careers, artists, practitioners, professionals, and activists whose research, poetry, prose, short films, or original performances reflexively engage with regimes of power as manifested in death, dying, mourning and end-of-life care. A non-exhaustive list of potential themes can be found in the extended Call for Papers here. In acknowledgement of differential capacities for movement and to ensure accessibility, the conference shall be held in a hybrid format and shall be free to all its participants. 

If we have piqued your interest, then please send your abstracts/proposals (approximately 300 words) to by the 15th of October, 2023 (11:59 PM CEST). You will be notified of the reviewing panel’s decision within 4-6 weeks of the deadline.