Universitas Indonesia Conferences, The 8th International Symposium of Journal Antropologi Indonesia

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Grieving Alone: Mutuality of Being and Death in the Coronavirus Disease Pandemic
Naeni - Amanulloh

Last modified: 2022-05-31


As of September 15th, 2021, 139 thousand people have died due to Covid-19, and has risen to 157,000 when this abstract was written. That statistical display is relatively effective in showing how dangerous the virus is and how important it is for everyone to follow the health protocols that have been formulated by medics. However, each number in that statistical display refers to the father, husband, mother, wife, children, nephews, grandchildren, grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, parents-in-law, lovers, or friends (or maybe enemies) of those preceded it. Each of them in that number occupies a certain social position in the kinship, work, and social environment. Death befalls the dead, but also events for those who preceded it. There is always another human being involved in a death: medics, a mortician, a friend, or a relative; no matter how alone the death is. Like life, death is social. There is a sense of loss for those who are left behind, maybe temporarily or maybe for a long time. At the same time, the sense of loss may in ranks because those who are left behind have fewer opportunities to mourn: the burial procession was carried out with a certain protocol, there was no takziyah, and there was no testimony at the funeral. Those left behind could not accompany him/her who was sick or died. Through this subject of death, I want to reflect on life, specifically on the mutuality in the social life. How does the mutuality of being (Sahlins 2013) appear and take shape in the crisis moments of death during the Covid-19 pandemic, when physical-social interaction is restricted? If ‘…experience is more than individual’ (Sahlins 2013), what kind of experiences do people have when a death is so massive? Is there anything to reflect on about life from death? The scope of discussion offered through this abstract will be focused on contemplating about humans as social beings. Through an anthropological perspective, I hope this discussion can take a lesson from the Covid-19 pandemic regarding contemporary life.

Keywords: mutuality of being, grieving, death, social being, life


Sahlins, Marshal. 2013. What Kinship Is -- And Is Not. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

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