Suicide as slow death: Towards a haunted sociology of suicide

Amy Chandler*, Sarah Wright

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Sociological research on suicide has tended to favour functionalist approaches, and quantitative methods. This paper argues for an alternative engagement - drawing on interpretive paradigms, and inspired by ‘live’ methodologies, we make an argument for a haunted sociology of suicide. This approach, informed by Avery Gordon’s haunted sociological imagination and Lauren Berlant’s concept of slow death, works between the structural realities of inequalities in suicide rates and the more (in)tangible affects of suicide as they are lived. These theoretical engagements are illustrated through an empirical study which used collaborative, arts-based discussion groups about suicide. The groups were held with 14 people, all affected in different ways by suicide, and attending a community-based mental health centre in a semi-rural location in Scotland, UK. A narrative-informed analysis of data generated through these groups shows the creative potential of both arts-based methodologies, and interpretive sociologies, in deepening understanding of how inequalities in rates of suicide may be experienced and made sense of. We illustrate this via two related metaphors (‘the point’ and ‘the edge’) which recurred in the data. Our analysis underlines the vital relevance of sociology to suicide studies – and the urgent need for diverse sociological engagement and action on this topic.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Sociological Review
Early online date29 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • arts-based
  • sociology
  • suicide
  • qualitative
  • haunting
  • slow death


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