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Journal Articles Terrain Year : 2018

Thinking the Obvious


This article traces the steps taken by a particular person, Peter, towards an assisted voluntary death, in Switzerland, in order to grasp and analyse the negotiations that accompany such an undertaking, as well as the carrying out of such a contemporary manner of dying. Two moments in particular are observed, which reveal two distinct and interconnected concerns. The first moment is that of medical examination, one step of the process through which the manifest justifications for requesting assistance with voluntary death are evaluated. The article takes up the “obviousness” of the demand, considering that its multiple significations, contextualized within Peter’s life history, can more soundly be apprehended with the help of Roland Barthes’s idea of the “Neutral”, or “desire for Neutral”, characterised as the search for a mode of semiotic engagement that eludes or thwarts signifying oppositions. The second moment is that of the assisted suicide itself, in which the particular sequence of gestural movements during dying are grasped by way of a double iconographic tradition, that of compassion and lamentation, so as to make available their ethical and aesthetic stakes.

Dates and versions

hal-03480092 , version 1 (14-12-2021)



Anthony Stavrianakis. Thinking the Obvious. Terrain, 2018, ⟨10.4000/terrain.16103⟩. ⟨hal-03480092⟩
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