Inertia in ethical urban relations: the living, the dying and the dead

Donald, Stephanie (2014) Inertia in ethical urban relations: the living, the dying and the dead. In: Inert Cities: Globalization, Mobility and Suspension in Visual Culture. IB Tauris, London, pp. 153-172. ISBN 9781780769738, 9781780769721

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Abstract

The premises of this chapter are, first, that the city is as much indebted to the dead as to the living and, second, that the inertia of the dead is – counter-intuitively perhaps – generative of historical meaning, ethical deliberations and cultural renewal. Taking cues from the theologian Sarah Sentilles’ commentary on Levinas and the ethics of looking at and looking after the weakest in society, and the literary philosopher Robert Pogue Harrison’s commentary on death as both a debt and a responsibility to time (2003: 143), the following discussion aims to place the corpse at the centre of our consciousness of what it means to live ethically in the city. This is in part in order to train our attention on the urban precariousness of the living, revealed most poignantly through death, and in part to investigate the potency of acknowledging matter through its inertia (rather in despite of it). This second premise is therefore an ontological claim on stillness, the most profound stillness that humanity can imagine or perform. This discussion draws on cinema, ficto-documentary and theatre to tell stories of death and disposal in London, Paris and Senegal. In European postcolonial cities, Paris and London, the cases reveal the temporally extended marginalization of raced subjects before, during and after death.

Keywords:death and theatre, death and the city, stillness and the city, death and the cinema, London and race in the 1980s, Senegalese film, British film, French film
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
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ID Code:31955
Deposited On:21 Jun 2018 20:31

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