Search/ing for missing people: families living with ambiguous absence

Parr, H. , Stevenson, O. and Woolnough, P. (2016) Search/ing for missing people: families living with ambiguous absence. Emotion, Space and Society, 19, pp. 66-75. (doi: 10.1016/j.emospa.2015.09.004)

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Families of missing people are often understood as inhabiting a particular space of ambiguity, captured in the phrase ‘living in limbo’ (Holmes, 2008). To explore this uncertain ground, we interviewed 25 family members to consider how human absence is acted upon and not just felt within this space ‘in between’ grief and loss (Wayland, 2007). In the paper, we represent families as active agents in spatial stories of ‘living in limbo’, and we provide insights into the diverse strategies of search/ing (technical, physical and emotional) in which they engage to locate either their missing member or news of them. Responses to absence are shown to be intimately bound up with unstable spatial knowledges of the missing person and emotional actions that are subject to change over time. We suggest that practices of search are not just locative actions, but act as transformative processes providing insights into how families inhabit emotional dynamism and transition in response to the on-going ‘missing situation’ and ambiguous loss (Boss, 1999, 2013).

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Parr, Professor Hester and Stevenson, Dr Olivia
Authors: Parr, H., Stevenson, O., and Woolnough, P.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Emotion, Space and Society
ISSN (Online):1878-0040
Published Online:01 January 2015
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in Emotion, Space and Society 19:66-75
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
512121Geographies of missing people: processes, experiences and responsesHester ParrEconomic & Social Research Council (ESRC)ES/H030166/1SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES