Normalising death in the time of a pandemic

Authors

Keywords:

COVID-19, death, registration, normal, excess, muerte, registro, exceso

Abstract

This paper examines a tension in the time of a pandemic between governmental representations of death as an anomaly and techniques for normalising death as an inevitable outcome of life. It contends that the technology of registering a death during the COVID-19 pandemic is conditioned upon differentiating between the normal and the pathological, standards and variations, and average and excess. Indeed, death registration depends on the creation of a new universal nomenclature for ascertaining death causation, which excludes various circumstances of a person’s life in order to stabilise SARS-CoV-2 as a normative category for classification. The paper thus reveals how during a pandemic, registration can been utilised to pathologise specific kinds of death, while unproblematically reifying the concept of a normal death. It argues that what the COVID-19 pandemic exposes, particularly though the productive tension between the rhetoric of death as both an anomaly and inevitable, is that normalising technologies are inextricable from how a panoply of institutions determine what deaths should be counted at all.

Este artículo examina la tensión que se produjo en el primer año de pandemia de la COVID-19 entre discursos sobre la muerte como anomalía y las técnicas para normalizar la muerte como resultado inevitable de la vida. Afirma que la tecnología de registro de muertes en el norte global en 2020 estaba condicionada por diferenciar entre lo normal y lo patológico, lo normal y la variación, y la media y el exceso. De hecho, el registro de un fallecimiento dependía de la creación de una nueva nomenclatura universal para comprobar la causa, lo cual excluía diversas circunstancias de la vida de una persona a fin de estabilizar el SARS-CoV-2 como una categoría normativa de clasificación. Por tanto, el artículo revela como, en época de pandemia, la tecnología de registro se puede usar para patologizar determinados tipos de muertes. Se argumenta que la fase inicial de la COVID-19 deja al descubierto, sobre todo a través de la tensión productiva entre discursos de la muerte como anomalía e inevitabilidad, que las tecnologías normalizadoras son inextricables de la forma en que un entramado de instituciones deciden qué muertes se deben contabilizar.

Available from: https://doi.org/10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1232

Author Biography

Dr Marc Trabsky, La Trobe University

Dr Marc Trabsky is a Senior Lecturer at La Trobe Law School and Director of the Centre for Health, Law and Society, La Trobe University. He writes in the intersections of legal theory, history and the humanities. His research examines the theoretical, historical and institutional arrangements of law and death. His first book, Law and the Dead: Technology, Relations and Institutions (Routledge, 2019), was awarded the Law and Society Association of Australia and New Zealand Book Prize for 2019.

La Trobe Law School, La Trobe University, 3086, Victoria, Australia. Email address: M.Trabsky@latrobe.edu.au 

Published

30-11-2021 — Updated on 01-06-2022

How to Cite

Trabsky, M. (2022) “Normalising death in the time of a pandemic”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 12(3), pp. 540–555. Available at: https://opo.iisj.net/index.php/osls/article/view/1367 (Accessed: 26 June 2022).