Suicide is commonly understood as something that must be prevented. Dominant approaches to suicide, then, are necessarily centred around those who want to die: it requires intervention in the lives of those who want to die and have died by those who want to live and who are committed to longevity. That such approach structures responses to suicide in research and practice remains largely unquestioned.
In this paper, I shift the focus away from the suicidal individual and highlight the ‘where’ from which suicide is read. I argue that acknowledging that suicide is read from the position of those who want to live, and highlighting it as a position, destabilises the presumed neutrality of this position. Furthermore, the imperative of prevention in suicide presumes that the will to live is a natural characteristic of bodies. I argue, however, that it is an embodied norm that is naturalised through performative repetition.
Drawing on queer and feminist theories of embodiment, I engage with the question of who gets to speak about suicide and how this speaking position is enabled and sustained. I, furthermore, investigate which kinds of responses to suicide this speaking position enables and disables. In other words, in this paper, I am interested in who can occupy a position from which they can speak about suicide, and how this informs what can be known about suicide. Indeed, if the positionality of the living disappears in its presumed neutrality, the normative character of the responses to suicide it enables is displaced from view. I thus aim to interrogate the ways in which the positionality of those who want to live is implicated in perpetuating binaries such as normal/abnormal and natural/unnatural
Saartje Tack is a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Sociology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Saartje’s research interests include queer and feminist theories of embodiment, with a particular focus on questions of agency, identity, and subjectivity