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27-31 August 2019
Poznań, Poland
Europe/Warsaw timezone
programme last update: 23 August 2019
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Contribution Paper

Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.104

A piece about some unexpected ‘applied anthropology’: Experiencing loss as an anthropologist

Speakers

  • Anna HEITGER

Primary authors

Description

It was my own father's grave. Perhaps it was because of his unanticipated, early death, perhaps because I was way too deep in anthropological thought that made me feel weird experiencing what I came to think of as practices of burying the dead, of visiting the grave, and practices of mourning and grieving. I was well aware I wasn’t only observing my father’s passing away, but was immersed in the very situation my anthropological training had taught me to see external to myself. I knew my face was as pale as were those of my mother and my sister, but even so, I felt immersed differently, somehow disattached from what was happening around me – in this particular anthropological way. I watched my best friend arriving at the funeral with tears on her cheeks, and couldn’t but wonder why, and how. I saw the people around me re-organizing into practices of grieving over someone’s loss; some mourning, others giving comfort. While observing the emerging social interactions, at the same time I experienced a re-contextualization of the observed practices. This bigger picture was made up of pieces, fragments of theories I had become familiar with; theories of ‘becoming’, where life isn’t something inside of a subject, but passes through them as they enter and leave the world. I found my father’s death embedded in the multiplicity of ways in which humans deal with transience, with decease of loved ones, with desperate attempts of making sense of life in spite of loss.