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Sovereignty and the politics of dead bodies
Editor: Finn Stepputat

This book looks at sovereignty as a particular form of power and politics. It shows that the fate of bodies in the transition from life to death can provide a key to understanding fundamental ways in which sovereignty is claimed and performed. The contributions analyse (post-)conflict as well as non-conflict contexts, which too often are studied in isolation from one another. Focusing on contemporary issues rather than the equally important historical dimensions, they all grapple with the questions of who governs the dead bodies, how, why and with what effects. The book analyses how dead bodies are placed and dealt with in spaces between competing, overlapping and nested sovereign orders, under normal as well as exceptional conditions. It looks at contributions that draw on psychoanalysis, critical theory, the structuralist-functionalist anthropology of burial rituals and recent ideas of agency and materiality. The book first explains the efforts of states to contain and separate out dead bodies in particular sites. It explores the ways in which such efforts of containment are negotiated and contested in struggles between different entities that claim the dead bodies. The book then shows how entities that claim sovereignty produce effects of sovereignty by challenging and transgressing the laws regarding the legitimate use of violence and how dead bodies should be treated with dignity.

Open Access (free)
Theoretical approaches
Finn Stepputat

2 Governing the dead? Theoretical approaches Finn Stepputat Following a trend of emerging interest in carnal fetishism1 and the politics of dead bodies (Verdery 1999), this volume focuses on the particular relationship between sovereignty on the one hand and (dead) bodies and human remains on the other, arguing that this analysis can help us understand fundamental ways in which sovereignty is claimed and performed. We see sovereignty as an effect of practices that are fundamentally related to the body and to issues of life and death, and pertaining to the state

in Governing the dead
Open Access (free)
Finn Stepputat

1 Introduction Finn Stepputat Sovereignty and dead bodies When my wife suddenly died some years ago, our home was soon flooded with paramedics and police officers, including a photographer and a social worker-cum-police officer. I asked the criminal investigator who interviewed me about the circumstances of the death if they could postpone taking my wife’s body to the hospital morgue. A few hours would allow us to say goodbye to her and to try to realise that she was no longer alive. I guess I was inspired by an experience from my youth when I spent time at the

in Governing the dead
The violent pursuit of cultural sovereignty during authoritarian rule in Argentina
Antonius C.G.M. Robben

8 Governing the disappeared-living and the disappeared-dead: the violent pursuit of cultural sovereignty during authoritarian rule in Argentina Antonius C. G. M. Robben Graciela Beatriz Daleo was abducted on 18 October 1977, at the age of twenty-eight. She had been active in the Juventud Peronista since 1966, a Peronist youth organisation whose incessant street demonstrations during the early 1970s had been instrumental in the return of the exiled former president Juan Domingo Perón to Argentina. The Peronist Montoneros, the Marxist People’s Revolutionary Army

in Governing the dead
Corpse, bodypolitics and contestation in contemporary Guatemala
Ninna Nyberg Sørensen

11 Governing through the mutilated female body: corpse, bodypolitics and contestation in contemporary Guatemala1 Ninna Nyberg Sørensen Introduction This chapter examines the brutal killing of women in post-war Guatemala, the interpretations that these murders engender and the place of the dead bodies in the country’s contestations over sovereignty. It grows out of having lived and worked (with other issues) in the country 2005–9 and by being horror-struck by Guatemala’s ever present perverse blend of beauty and terror: The breath-taking range of landscapes

in Governing the dead
John Borneman

of the power of corpses and offer an explanation for their widespread movement in postsocialist states. This movement, I will argue, is a manic reaction to the death of political regimes and to the sense of abandonment that accompanies this end. Although people may understand this reaction as asserting sovereignty over the dead, it in fact demonstrates the inverse: that the dead govern the living. How and why is it that humans deny being governed by the dead and instead claim victory over their losses? What is the connection between the experience of regime end and

in Governing the dead
Open Access (free)
Negotiating sovereign claims in Oaxacan post-mortem repatriation
Lars Ove Trans

various authorities seek to exert their sovereignty by inscribing their claims on the deceased migrant body. A death in the migrant community For most immigrant groups who struggle in the lower echelons of the US economy death can be a serious economic challenge. The funeral expenses usually involve the costs of a coffin, burial plot, funeral home and mass, as well as expenditures related to housing and feeding family and guests (see Moore 1970). In the case that the body is being sent back to the place of origin, the costs will increase manifold. Historically, in

in Governing the dead
Open Access (free)
Death, landscape and power among the Duha Tuvinians of northern Mongolia
Benedikte Møller Kristensen

also continued to grant their deceased ones open-air funerals during socialism. Inspired by Caroline Humphrey (2004), I propose that the Duha in the taiga managed to carry on the illegal practice of open-air funerals through establishing a kind of ‘localised form of sovereignty’ (2004: 420) ‘nested’ within the ‘higher sovereignty’ of the Mongolian state. Humphrey discusses how it was possible for the mafia in Buriyatia to establish a ‘localised sovereignty’, in the form of an illegal marshrut system of local taxi-drivers, which was ‘nested’ within the Russian state

in Governing the dead
Yehonatan Alsheh

the violence, from a biopolitical perspective; (2) the historically specific inscription of sovereignty on corpses; (3) the emergent effects of populations of corpses; and (4) the role of forensic anthropology in tapping into corpses as resources for legal and scholarly investigations of mass violence and genocide. HRMV.indb 13 01/09/2014 17:28:33 14  Yehonatan Alsheh The biopolitical interpretation of genocide and mass violence Biopolitics, defined in the terms of contemporary social systems theory,2 is the historically specific structural coupling of the

in Human remains and mass violence
Regnar Kristensen

drawn attention to the fact that so-called ‘wars’ on internal enemies (e.g. criminals or terrorists) within nation-states take on characteristics which are different from those of traditional ‘wars’ between nations. They question, in particular, the notion of sovereign bodies by suggesting a shift in ground of our understanding of sovereignty from issues of territory and external recognition by states to issues of internal constitutions of sovereign power within states through the exercise of violence over bodies and populations (Hansen and Stepputat 2005: 2). Drawing

in Governing the dead