Sociologický časopis
Czech sociological review

VYDÁVÁ SOCIOLOGICKÝ ÚSTAV AV ČR, v.v.i.

← Sociologický časopis / Czech Sociological Review 5/2019

Alyson Patsavas:
‘The Last Dance’: Pain, Disability, and the Case of Jerika Bolen [641]

Patsavas, Alyson. 2019. „„Poslední tanec“: bolest, postižení a smrt Jeriky Bolen.“ Sociologický časopis / Czech Sociological Review 55 (5): 641-660, https://doi.org/10.13060/00380288.2019.55.5.480

In the summer of 2016, black, disabled, and gay 14-year-old Jerika Bolen announced her decision to die. The public conversation surrounding Bolen’s decision, launched through a series of newspaper articles announcing a ‘last dance’ prom, offers a case-study through which to explore how pain frustrates an analysis of the biopolitical formations that shape both right-to-die discussions and decisions. In doing so, this article offers two interventions. It reveals how dominant views of pain and disability shape and limit how we make sense of Jerika’s life and death. It also highlights the analytical leverage that this critical approach offers by reading Bolen’s death as a form of what critical theorist Lauren Berlant calls ‘slow death’ or the gradual wearing out of populations. In this way, I extend conversations within critical theory that seek to trace the slower and more sustained impacts of structural oppression. In looking at the convergence of the biopolitics and necropolitics of disability, race, class, gender, and sexuality, I suggest Bolen’s death and the ‘last dance’ that launched an international public conversation about it function as a celebration of slow death facilitated, in part, by dominant views of pain and disability.

Keywords: disability, pain, biopolitics, slow death, right-to-die

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