From Lamentatio to online mourning. The new forms of lament, between “techniques of presence” and technologies of absence

  • Maria Serafini University of Milan "Statale"


This article intends to lay the foundations of an interpretation of the emerging practices of commemoration on social networks starting from an analysis of the categories of “crisis of mourning” and “mourning technique” proposed by Ernesto De Martino in Death and Ritual Mourning. Online mourning practices fit into the framework of the use of electronic media as means of communication between the living and the dead, as well as in the context of the emergence of new ritual and religious forms on the Web. De Martino’s concept of mourning, which focuses on the cultural nature of mourning experiences and expressions, offers an interesting framework for analysing new digital memorial practices. On the one hand, the philosophy of presence can be juxtaposed with contemporary reflections on the relationship between personal identity and digital identities and practices; on the other hand, a dialogue can be established between certain “aesthetic” aspects of the grief crisis and the technological structures of social networks. The possibility of applying De Martino’s thought to digital practices, as new forms of funeral rituality, is justified by the philosopher’s oscillation between two ways of understanding mourning: the first as a pathology of identity that calls into question narrative techniques of re-signifying experience; the second as an aesthetic pathology that refers to reorientation practices. Starting from the continuity between technique and technology, it is possible to propose research on online environments intended as socio-technological contexts capable of hosting emerging techniques of presence, the aim of which is to identify a cultural and technological form of managing absence.