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Accepted Paper:

Political grief and the politics of grief: On how mediated mourning complicates the object of grief  
Aleksandra Bartoszko (VID Specialized University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper offers an emergent case analysis of public mourning of a doctor treating people who used illegal drugs in Norway. Theorizing how mediated mourning (re)shapes the object of grief, the paper contributes to the existing discussions on politicized grief.

Paper long abstract:

On September 12, 2021, a man in Norway dies. In the weeks after, Norway hears about the doctor who in years had defied authorities to help people addicted to illegal drugs: Sverre Eika – “the addicts’ doctor” (narkomanes lege). Media describe desperation and fear within a community left in mourning. There are reports of acute hospitalizations and even suicides among Eika’s patients. Media interview and quote mourning activists warning about a rise of overdoses and who demands establishing clinics in his honor. Politicians demanded emergent measures while advocating for drug policy reform during memorial service describing Eika as “drug policy reform in two shoes”. Grief after Eika actualized the precarious situation of people addicted to illegal drugs, the inadequate care, and the political tensions. Through the ways it was mediated, it became a metonymy for the broken care system, the inhuman drug policy in Norway, and the ungrievable “addicts.”

This paper offers an emergent analysis of this social and political event, which illustrates mourning’s political dimensions and complicates the existing theorization of political grief. While mourning was mediated to the public, to “those outside of its communities of shared sentiments” through the diverse voices, forms, and engagements, the object of grief was continuously reformulated. These insights will contribute to the existing theoretical approaches to politicized grief by making a distinction between two somewhat established concepts: “political grief” and “politics of grief.” I will conceptualize the difference between these two, and their relation to the mediated object of grief.

Panel P052a
Mediating Mourning: grief and justice beyond redemption I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -