In this 42nd COMPOSTING we talk about death and its animations. How do we engage with and attend the bodies of the dead, in particular, the unknown and unclaimed? In India a longstanding, entangled, and beneficial relationship between vulture and human has been ruptured. It is a story that extends through the sacred bodies of cows, the rituals of a Parsis diaspora, the contagion control of Vultures, the survival of the poor and a drug called diclofenac. Meanwhile, in Australia who enacts the rituals for the unclaimed when the state steps in? What labours and performances follow death: the preparation of bodies and pyres, the forensics, the tracing of relations, the cleansing of spaces of death, and then there are the vultures again and their clean fleshy ways.

LEAD COMPOSTERS: Julie Vulcan and Sue Reid


Australia’s ‘unclaimed persons’: what happens to those who die alone?

Thom Van Dooren “Vultures and their People in India: Equity and Entanglement in a Time of Extinction.” Australian Humanities Review Issue 50, 2011

Julie Vulcan “I Stand In: Intimate Transactions for the Forgotten, Misplaced, Unrecovered and Removed.” In What is Performance Art? Australian Perspectives. Ed. Adam Geczy and Mimi Kelly, Power Publications 2018. Images and Video:


WHEN: Tues 22 October 4-5:30 pm

WHERE: University of Sydney SOPHI Common Room (Brennan MacCallum 822)

As always: 
BYOM (Bring your own mug – I will supply tea!)
BASTS (Bring a snack to share. We love eating!)
CWAQ (Come with a question! As always we will launch the session by going around the table to hear from everyone who would like to share)

The COMPOSTING reading group is open to bodies of all genders, professions, and walks of life, including but not limited to academics, postgrad students, undergrads, artists, poets, activists, grandmas, multispecies companions, and the odd ghost. We are an inclusive intersectional feminist space, and together we are figuring out what that means, in practice.

*The SOPHI Common Room is accessible by elevator from the main entrance to Brennan McCallum Building on Manning Road (this entrance is already on floor 3). Enter, turn left to reach the lifts, then take the lift to the 8th floor of Brennan. Exit the elevator, and the SOPHI Common Room (822) is straight ahead. There is an accessible toilet beside the elevators on the 8th floor.

If you have any other questions about accessibility, or anything else that would better facilitate your participation in the group, please contact Astrida at


Additional reading

Dioramas of death: cleaner recreates rooms where people died alone:

Death Maidens:

Death of the Disregarded Deborah Bird Rose and Thom Van Dooren:

Yasmin Gunaratnam “’Those That Resemble Flies From A Distance’: Performing Research”

Queer Death Studies Network

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