In August 2023, I had the pleasure to present the results of a very special art-based project at the International Human Science Research Conference.

The “Dying in the Margins” project is the result of an inspiring collaboration with Radboud UMC Associate professor in Contemporary Meanings of Ageing and Dying Els van Wijngaarden and professional photographer/artist Mariska van Zutven.

Through her work, Mariska Van Zutven sought to capture the story of people dying in the margins by taking photographs of their houses shortly after they died. These photographs embody a unique transitional space where the essence of the former inhabitant lingers, yet it is poised to fade as new occupants will soon step in.

Our project sought to better understand the experience of dying in the margins by looking at the photographs of these spaces through four dimensions of life: time, space, relationships, and oneself. Through our analysis, we illuminated various facets of the marginal dying experience. We brought to the forefront the delicate balance between presence and absence, the paradox of being isolated while being surrounded, and the contrast between caregiving and preservation, in the face of the inevitable decay brought on by the passage of time.

In conclusion, this project might invite us to revisit some of our preconceived ideas about dying in the margins and remind us that death and dying in the margins is not necessarily a tragedy, but rather a complex tapestry woven with elements of ambivalence and resilience.