A tale of two deaths: Spectacular death and the scene of pain

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In this chapter, the author discusses two contrasting deaths that both happened in Iceland in 2017. These two deaths speak to issues of contested memorialisation in public places, and the political lives of the dead. Through that, the deaths speak to questions of grievable lives, inclusion and exclusion, belonging and non-belonging. Early in 2017, a young woman disappeared after a night out in Reykjavík. In the days and the weeks and months that followed, Iceland was gripped by the unfolding search for her, then the police investigation into, and court proceedings in relation to her murder. Events were organised in her memory, walks staged to emphasise the reality of sexual violence and the young woman construed as the ‘daughter of the Icelandic nation’. Public reactions were striking in almost celebrating her death as an opportunity for the nation to demonstrate all its best qualities, as one commentator put it. Later in the year, a young man disappeared down the Gullfoss waterfall, one of the most iconic tourist destinations in Iceland. Nameless at first, it was later confirmed that the young man was from Georgia and had sought asylum in Iceland. His death remained largely unmarked publicly except for one prominent commentator drawing attention to the recent ruling in Iceland that Georgia is a safe country. The two deaths speak to the politics of death, dying and disposal.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe age of spectacular death
EditorsMichael Jacobsen
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9780429351556
ISBN (Print)978-0-367-36827-2
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2020


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