Dissertation Defense Nadia de Vries: Digital Corpses: Creation, Appropriation, and Reappropriation

Now that everyday human life, including dying, is increasingly intertwined with digital technologies and online cultures, it is important to understand how this entanglement affects existing social norms, including those that relate to death. These social norms do not only pertain to our mourning practices (the honoring and remembering of lost loved ones on Facbook and Instagram, for example) but also to the ways in which we encounter – and engage with – images of death. Due to the large-scale shareability and malleability of online images, however, such images of death are also vulnerable to various forms of abuse. This research project focuses on three forms of such abuse – creation, appropriation and reappropriation – and investigates the power dynamics between living bodies and dead bodies that these forms of abuse reveal. Who, for instance, is the owner of a dead body once that dead body is turned into a digital image? Who is responsible for what happens to this dead body – as ‘corpse-image’ – as a result of its digitization? And what does the ease with which such a ‘digital corpse’ is created, appropriated or reappropriated say about the agency that the dead themselves have in a digital context? Through an analysis of six digital images of dead and dying bodies, found on social media and online shock sites but also in contemporary art and journalism (such as the infamous Falling Man image that was published in the aftermath of 9/11), this dissertation offers an answer to these questions.

Defense date: Wednesday 2 December 2020, 14:00 | Aula – Oude Lutherse Kerk (Singel 411) | University of Amsterdam

Nadia de Vries is a writer and cultural researcher. Between 2016 and 2020, she conducted her PhD research at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). She is the author of the critical memoir Kleinzeer (Uitgeverij Pluim, 2019; in Dutch) and the poetry collection Dark Hour (Dostoyevsky Wannabe, 2018; in English). She also frequently writes essays, poems, and stories for a variety of literary platforms. Her debut novel will be published by Uitgeverij Pluim in 2021.