Mourning Diana: Nation, Culture, and the Performance of Grief

Mourning Diana: Nation, Culture, and the Performance of Grief

Mourning Diana: Nation, Culture, and the Performance of Grief

Mourning Diana: Nation, Culture, and the Performance of Grief


The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, on September 1 1997, prompted public demonstrations of grief on an almost unprecented global scale. But, while global media coverage of the events following her death appeared to create an international 'community of mourning', popular reacions in fact reflected the complexities of the princess's public image and the tensions surrounding the popular conception of royalty. Mourning Diana examines the events which followed the death of Diana as a series of cultural-political phenomena, from the immediate aftermath as crowds gathered in public spaces and royal palaces, to the state funeral in Westminister Abbey, examining the performance of grief and the involvement of the global media in the creation of narratives and spectacles relating to the commemoration of her life.Contributors investigate the complex iconic status of Diana, as a public figure able to sustain a host of alternative identifications, and trace the posthumous romanticisation of aspects of her life such as her charity activism and her relationship with Dodi al Fayed. The contributors argue that the events following the death of Diana dramatised a complex set of cultural tensions in which the boundaries dividing nationhood and citizenship, charity and activism, private feeling and public politics, were redrawn.


Mourning diana and the scholarly ethic

Adrian Kear and Deborah Lynn Steinberg

In the preface to the unusually rapidly produced academic collection Planet Diana, Ien Ang argues that:

Academics are generally slow and late, often too late, in their response to public matters that matter now, not tomorrow. Beaten by the immediacy of journalism, their seriously theorised but nonetheless on-the-spot insights do not often get the opportunity to enter into the public arena until everyone else has moved on.

(Republic 1997:v)

It seems beyond doubt that the reflective (as well as futural) orientation of scholarship demands a certain taking of time and that this time can appear to be out of sync with the temporal intensities and immediacies of everyday life. Journalism’s rapid turnover of successions of ‘significant moments’, its trade in evaluative judgements—often cast as certainties or singularities—produced in the moment, seems to override scholarship’s need to widen the moment and to think through its complexities. Ang’s invocation of the need for academic responsivity to the responsibilities of the moment is a demand for a change in the scholary ethic that goes beyond a simple temporal shift. It is a requirement to inhabit a ‘now time’ of reading and analysis (Benjamin, cited in Diamond 1997:146) that enables direct participation in the construction of the contemporary. At the same time, Ang’s seeming dismissal, here, of the scholarly obligation to ‘tomorrow’ would appear to deny the historicity of the ‘now’ —the constitutive pasts and futural possibilities contained within a present moment and necessitating continuing critical reflection. Thus an exhortation to scholarship of the present in the present, without the anticipation of the long view back, might sacrifice the scholarly ethic it is trying to extend. It risks collusion with the ‘maelstrom of ever more rapidly running time’ (Re:Public 1997: vi) and submersion in the seamless sequences of a continuous present.

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