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Animal Studies Journal

Abstract

Death doulas can help to make meaning in the dying process, to be present for what arises at the end of life, and to move alongside those who are dying and their loved ones. At the end of life, doulas can offer help reflecting on what this life has meant, planning for the coming death, holding space during the active dying process, and grieving the loss of the one who has died. This paper extends a doula approach – typically work done with humans – to death and dying in multispecies contexts. Many other species are routinely rendered killable, disposable, and ungrievable by human structures of violence and exploitation. The intention, meaning, and presence inherent to a doula approach can work to subvert these logics and transform how death and dying are conceptualized and practiced. This paper centers two stories of individuals – a dog called Maizy, and a hen known as Emily – to illustrate what a doula approach might do at the end of life, and to explore difficult and at times unanswerable questions in multispecies entanglements of living and dying. In its rejection of governing logics of killability, disposability, and ungrievability, a multispecies doula approach to death and dying enacts a radical politics of care and presence.

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