Deathworlds to Lifeworlds StoryMaps

… the possibility that some of us end the world remains the overwhelming characteristic of our time … survival, for us, now lies in seeing that which we have so many ways of not seeing … a darkness so ordinary and pervasive that we do not see it as darkness.

(Kurt H. Wolff and Joy Gordon (1995), Transformation in the Writing, p.xviii & p.203

We seek to map the extent to which communities contribute to individual, social and ecological Death-Making in their worlds and elsewhere. It is time for a wake-up call for a change of consciousness about our shared responsibility for reversing these death-making processes. Transformative Phenomenology as applied social phenomenology offers an avenue to make the invisible “visible” for change.

Recent Publications


Deathworlds are spaces in which the forces that work against life can cause physical, mental, social, and ecological decline. “Deathworld-making” activities contribute to the degradation, sickness, or death of places, persons, and other creatures.

Valerie Malhotra Bentz

These spaces are generally invisible to the standard measures of modern states and economies on our planet. These spaces should be conceptualized, as they are “many and growing.” Making them visible as real spaces and places on our maps and developing awareness, including regular news reports on them, could begin the process of transforming them into “the raw spaces for making new local economies, histories and modes of membership

Saskia Sassen


StoryMaps are compelling, public, web-based spatial depictions and descriptions of death-making processes, developed by our evolving Community-of-Action for improved communication, dialogue, and raising awareness in support of positive change in the world.


As the survival of life forms on earth is in question, humans must overcome economic and technological forces leading to Deathworlds. Deathworlds are areas on planet earth which are now devoid of life due to over-exploitation, wars, climate change or natural disasters.

We recognize that many if not most existing communities and their economies contribute to death-making either in their own communities or in other parts of the world through businesses that manufacture or distribute harmful products, or through funding them via taxes or investments.

As the dangers to life on earth increase, we want to increase awareness of the part all of us play in the loss of lifeforms and habitable areas on planet earth. Transformative Phenomenology as applied social phenomenology offers an avenue to make the invisible “visible” for change.

We seek to expand the map of Deathworlds beyond those zones already made dead to mapping those zones that contribute to death-making through the production and employment of life-destroying products, activities and processes. These we call “Death-Making” worlds.


Deathworlds are places on planet earth that can no longer sustain life. These are increasing rapidly. We experience remnants of Deathworlds within our Lifeworlds (for example traumatic echoes of war, genocide, oppression). Many practices and policies directly or indirectly are “Deathworld Making.” They undermine Lifeworlds contributing to community decline, illnesses, climate change, and species ex-tinction.


The project is focused on developing self-awareness and community building .
Transformative Phenomenology (TP) is our vehicle to support transformations. TP is founded on the essence-based phenomenology of Edmund Husserl, the social phenomenology of Alfred Schütz, the embodied phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, the ontologic-existential phenomenology of Martin Heidegger, and the reflective interpretative hermeneutic methods of Hans Georg Gadamer.

Writing phenomenologically reveals the connection between personal suffering and the suffering of the planet earth and all its creatures. Sharing can lead to collaborative relationships among strangers for social and environmental justice, across barriers of culture, politics, and language.

Photo by Diego Madrigal on


Deathworlds to Lifeworlds – James Marlatt and Valerie Malhotra Bentz

Deathworlds are spaces in which the forces that work against life can cause physical, mental, social, and ecological decline. “Deathworld-making” activities contribute to the degradation, sickness, or death of places, persons, and other creatures.

Deathworld of the City of Lodz – Valerie Malhotra Bentz & Krysztof Konecki

Insider and Outsider Experiences of a Stranger & Resident of the City of Lodz, Poland … There is the city. I see the blooming trees, and magpies are still around. No calls, no calls. No coughing. The dust covers longing. – Poem for Valerie from Krzysztof.

Skatepark! – Valerie Malhotra Bentz

Ecological Denial and Environmental Destruction in Carpinteria, California, USA. The fifty-eight trees destined for destruction at the Skatepark site provide habitat for birds, butterflies and other creatures and are a constant source of oxygen, cooling, and shade. Just in one hour last July seventeen species of birds were seen on these trees!

Be-ing with Dying – Carol Estrada

As a species we are experiential beings. Every day, every moment that we live brings with it an experience. We pay no attention to most of these experiences and moments. Instead, we end up taking them for granted until they begin to wane or disappear. It is common to find ourselves not living in the moment, but to push through life to get to future moments when we assume we will have time to live in the present. And so it was with me … at least until one day …

From Darkness to Light and Back: Accepting Oneself – Lucja Lange

I’ve acknowledged the existence of the precognitions when I was about 18 years old. And I’ve been struggling with them ever since. Precognition comes from nature. It is part of the natural world. There is no use in separating it, in calling it supernatural or magical. It doesn’t come from the darkness – it is the ultimate light. This is the knowledge, the pure knowledge. If we accept it.

Collaboration in National Community – David B. Haddad

In this story, a young wildlife biologist named Gu Bojian, a 31-year-old graduate student, stood up to the authorities and managed to block a hydro dam project. Gu’s success is even more notable because he waged it against the Chinese state.

Homeless City – Mapping against the Deathworld-making process of Othering – Natalia Martini

The map provides a better understanding of the logic of what may seem inappropriate or strange, and what results from the specific life situation in which over 2,300 residents of Cracow find themselves. It constitutes an invitation to reflect on how and for whom the city is arranged, what and why is considered normal and appropriate in the city, where the social boundaries run, and whether we can and want to abolish them, to create a solidary community of inhabitants, that notices, accepts and includes people who are in a difficult life situation.

Overcoming Deathworlds of Addiction, Self-Injury, and Stress – Jennifer Decker, Lori Davidson, Dagmara Tarasiuk

Pressure and power have two sides; both of them have positive and negative aspects. They can motivate and oppress us. Our society is filled with pressure and power. For some, these elements may lead to a Deathworld, and for others, it may be the beginning of a Lifeworld.


Bentz, V., Marlatt, J., with Estrada, C. (Eds.) (2022). Handbook of Transformative Phenomenology, Fielding Press. (D. Haddad and B. Buechner, Associate Eds.)

Bentz, V., Marlatt, J., (Eds.) (2021). Deathworlds to Lifeworlds: Collaboration with Strangers for Individual, Social, and Ecological Transformation. De Gruyter.

Bentz, V., Rehorick, D., Marlatt, J., Nishi, A., & Estrada, C. (2018). Transformative Phenomenology as an Antidote to Technological Deathworlds. Schutzian Research 10 (2018) 189–220