Jennifer Atkinson publishes in CSPA Quarterly


Image: "New Earth 17" by Daniela Molnar, 2020

IAS faculty member Jennifer Atkinson published “Mourning climate loss: ritual and collective grief in the age of crisis” in CSPA Quarterly. Her article features artists who use ritual to process the emotional toll of ecological loss and bring political attention to climate injustice 

As Atkinson argues, social justice movements constantly remind us that systems of oppression are reinforced when we push their painful legacies into the shadows. That’s why mourning rituals -- which bring visibility to unacknowledged injustice through public expression of outrage or grief -- can act as a powerful antidote. When we name and collectively recognize the tragedy of ecological loss, we engage in an ethical protest against modes of thought that trivialize this annihilation. Meanwhile, on the individual level, these customs help us stay present with grief instead of repressing it. Finally, collective ritual promotes solidarity, since grieving as a community removes our isolation from others experiencing loss, providing a corrective to apathy or mass denial.

Atkinson’s article featured the work of artists including Persephone Pearl, Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona, Daniela Molnar, Emily Laurens and Chris Jordan.

As Atkinson wrote:

"We commonly think of mourning as a private experience, but these rituals remind us of its power as a political act as well. In a culture built on a hierarchy of lives that matter and lives that don't, some deaths receive elaborate mourning rituals and public tributes, while others are trivialized or ignored. Marginalized groups know how this absence of public grief dehumanizes them, which is why Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ activists, and people seeking justice for murdered indigenous women all use public protests and vigils to demand that those deaths aren't made invisible. 

In similar ways, when we openly grieve for the loss of other species or forests or rivers, we're asserting that nonhuman lives and natural elements are also worthy of mourning. We refuse to accept their exclusion from human circles of compassion. And ultimately, these individual and collective rituals can inspire us to transform our grief into political anger and meaningful social change."

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