A critical rejoinder to "Life's End: Ethnographic Perspectives".Death Stud. 2019 Jul 18 [Online ahead of print]DS
This article stands as a response to Goodwin-Hawkins and Dawson's (2018) article "Life's End: Ethnographic Perspectives" which was published in this journal as an Introduction to a Special Issue of ethnographies about end of life. We address three interwoven fallacies promoted in "Life's End." First, we begin by challenging the authors' central contention that there is no "rigorous body of anthropological work on the issue of dying." We then problematize the authors' conflation of anthropology and ethnography. Finally, we deconstruct their argument that there is an "anthropological aversion" to the study of dying stemming from the inherent "intimacy" of ethnographic methods, as well as their assumption that there is something uniquely emotionally challenging about studying dying. We argue that in framing their Introduction to ethnographies of dying as largely one of absence, Goodwin-Hawkins and Dawson ignore a rich history and diversity of research. In challenging the authors' obfuscation of our subdiscipline, we offer as a corrective a wide range of examples taken from a substantive canon of ethnographic research spanning almost 70 years. We conclude with a broader call for slow academia to ensure that important scholarly contributions are not erased from memory and history rewritten.