Which bodies matter and which do not matter? Which lives are grievable and which disposable? Which lives and which deaths will gain new coverage? Will be mourned publicly? Which deaths will not be mourned? Will not be seen as worthy of news coverage or global protest?
These are important questions to ask when considering our politics of mourning. Mourning, as a national outbreak of moral protest, itself can work to form the normative scripts of the grievable and disposable human subject. This is not to take away from from the horrors of deaths which are nationally mourned, but to resist the constraints which are placed on mourning through the normativities of grief and the grievable death through racial scripts.
When we mourn the loss of the victims of 9/11, Charlie Hebdo, of the Paris bombings or the victims of Pulse, we certainly would not want to say that only these lives matter, but that these lives, as lives, matter. Should this not be our claim? That life itself is precious? That death and its grievance should not be politicized? This is certainly the message activists of Black Lives Matter make. What is said is not that only black lives matter, but that black lives also matter when they do not appear to matter to be police, state or media.
If life, as life, mattered, if norms of the grievable human subject were not reinforced within societal discourses in manner which constrained the recognizable grievable subject, there would indeed be no need to announce that black live matter. Yet some lives do not appear to matter as life. National forms of mourning have worked to reassert which lives are grievable and which are not. Indeed, it is difficult to discuss police or military violence towards racial populations without negative reactions, dismissal, anger, justification and the list goes on. Yet what use is our mourning if we cannot locate the source of violence, if we attempt to render invisible its very sources through our mourning
Let us return to the question we began with. Why are some deaths reasonable cause for global mourning and protest while others are not? Who is the normative grievable subject? Who does this mourning benefit? And at what cost?
In linking this to the recent shooting in Orlando, importantly, Let us consider that the narrative of queer liberation in the spatialities and temporalities of modernity – Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand – and the emergence of an acceptable and patriot form of national queerness – homonormativity – have played and important part in producing conceptualizations of the homophobic ‘Other’ – being produced as stuck behind in time while the modern has progressed through a teleological linear progressive history in the unfolding of freedoms. But the state cares about our deaths and them being grieved so long as it can legitimate itself as queer friendly. Yet when our very lives and deaths do not legitimate this view, they indeed do not appear representable. If our fallen comrad’s starved to death on the streets, the state would not grieve nor publicize their deaths.
Which bodies matter and which do not matter? Which lives are grievable and which disposable? Which lives and which deaths will gain new coverage? Will be mourned publicly? Which deaths will not be grieved? Will not be seen as worthy of news coverage or global protest?