This seminar will focus on the necropolitics of assimilation, mourning and public performances of loss in the context of white-nation making in Scandinavia. Jan-Therese Mendes and Mons Bissenbakker will present two papers followed by discussion. The seminar will be chaired by Lene Myong, Gender Studies, University of Stavanger.

The seminar is free and open to the public. To sign up for the seminar send an email to:


National Assimilation, Black Death, & Black Muslim Women: From Unremarkable Corpse to the Integrating Suicidal Subject

Jan-Therese Mendes, Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought, York University, Canada

Elsewhere I have analyzed the affective strategies that allow for the murder of the “unveiled Muslim woman” to inspire a happily inconsolable grief in service of white-nation making in Canada and Sweden (Mendes 2018). Further considering the work of such good “bad” feelings (Ahmed 2004), in this paper I question whether such investments in assimilation and the public performance of loss are equally available to the Black body. And more specifically, to Black Muslim women. What I am probing here are the assimilatory im/possibilities for those who often do not waver on the line of nationally integratable life but are already situated within the forsaken place of non-life—that is, as the “shadow” figures of “death zones” (Mbembe 2003). I thus inquire into the “grievability” (Butler 2009) of Black life when death is at once expected, awaited, induced, familiar, unremarkable and ultimately, dismissible (see Rankine 2015; Sharpe 2016). Yet, in the particular face of Black woman’s “disposability” (McKittrick 2006) — as the unremarkably dead and as those who reproduce the dead — I further explore whether Black Muslim women have access to a form of social resuscitation that is barred to their non-Muslim counterparts. Redemptive possibilities might then conversely invoke Black death. By this I mean, a death brought about not by the hands of the so-called inherently patriarchal Muslim Father but that which is self-induced. Hereby, killing the offensive self can be possibly be taken as Black Muslim women’s most patriotic act as they are re-born into the mores of Canadian or Swedish whiteness.


The White Tent of Grief. Racialized Conditions of Public Mourning in Denmark

Mons Bissenbakker, Associate Professor, Head of Centre for Gender Studies, University of Copenhagen

In 2015, Danish-Palestinian Omar El-Hussein shot and killed two men in Copenhagen, before being killed himself by the police. Danish media immediately classified El-Hussein’s actions as ‘a terrorist attack’, and they became the object of extreme concern to the Danish public. In the following days, the two murder sites were momentarily turned into public memorial spaces. When the site of the killing of El-Hussein also became a site of mourning, however, it prompted a negative reaction from politicians and the white majority public. While the mixed ractions to publicly mourning a murderer are understandable, they also reveal something about the racialized conditions of public mourning. Reading the different acts of publicly mourning El-Hussein, this talk investigates the ways in which public sites of grief are outlined by racialized economies. It builds upon Butler’s argument that public mourning forms are indicative of which lives are considered lives at all. However, it can be argued that such an analysis must consider the racialized logics of the performativity of public mourning: Thus, while non-white grief seems not to be recognized as grief at all, white grief tends to reiterate the racialized processes that outline white lives as grievable at the expense of non-white lives.


Jan-Therese Mendes is a PhD candidate in the Graduate Program of Social and Political Thought at York University, Canada. Most recently (2018), Mendes was a visiting doctoral student at the Centre for Multidisciplinary Studies on Racism (CEMFOR), Uppsala University, under Dr. Mattias Gardell. In 2017 Mendes was a visiting doctoral student at Stockholm University, under Dr. Tiina Rosenberg. Mendes’ dissertation research centres on the utility of “negative” affects in the racial strategies of white nation-making in Canada and Sweden; the fear of Black and Muslim Others as “pleasurable” feeling; death, mourning and figurative suicide through discourses of assimilation; as well as, everyday strategies of performativity and unintelligibility in relation to Black Muslim women’s wearing of the hijab.


Mons Bissenbakker, Associate Professor, PhD, is head of Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His research concerns the biopolitics of affect in the intersections between queer, feminist, de-colonial and crip theory as reflected in a wide range of cultural products such as fiction, film & TV, public debates, discourses of law, etc. His current research project “Attachment Required: Danish Migration Legislation 1999-2018” investigates the ways in which the concept of national attac­hment has come to govern Danish love mi­gra­tion. This project is part of the collective research project Loving Attach­ment: Regulating Danish Love Migra­tion (LOVA) of which Mons Bissenbakker is the project leader: