Title: The materialities of absence after stillbirth: historical perspectives
Authors: Bleyen, Jan
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
Host Document: The matter of death: space, place and materiality
Abstract: The main question of this chapter is the following: ‘What effects do spaces and objects have on the everyday life of parents whose child’s biological life ended at birth?’ In particular, its focus is on embodied actions that involve things which have a connection to the child. The crux of the question, then, is how through these actions – especially in the informal sphere of the home but also in the delivery room and at the cemetery – concepts such as ‘death’, ‘grief’, ‘time’, and the ‘life course’ are being metaphorically performed and hence made sense of in historically-specific ways.
Since the dead infant is without a directly embodied social identity, for parents it is unclear who and what has been lost. Nevertheless, this chapter shows how such babies have still materialised within space and time, and how objects-in-space, such as the cradle, toys, and pictures have been used in various ways and in particular material contexts (such as the hospital, the cemetery, and the home) to sustain ongoing relationships.
Publication status: accepted
KU Leuven publication type: IHb
Appears in Collections:Modernity & Society 1800-2000, Leuven

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