Burying the victims of Europe’s border in a Tunisian coastal
The Mediterranean Sea has recently become the deadliest of borders for
illegalised travellers. The victims of the European Union’s liquid border
are also found near North African shores. The question of how and where to bury
these unknown persons has recently come to the fore in Zarzis, a coastal town in
south-east Tunisia. Everyone involved in these burials – the coastguards,
doctors, Red Crescent volunteers, municipality employees – agree that
what they are doing is ‘wrong’. It is neither dignified nor
respectful to the dead, as the land used as a cemetery is an old waste dump, and
customary attitudes towards the dead are difficult to realise. This article will
first trace how this situation developed, despite the psychological discomfort
of all those affected. It will then explore how the work of care and dignity
emerges within this institutional chain, and what this may tell us about what
constitutes the concept of the human.
This book addresses the practices, treatment and commemoration of victims’ remains in post- genocide and mass violence contexts. Whether reburied, concealed, stored, abandoned or publically displayed, human remains raise a vast number of questions regarding their legal, ethical and social uses. Human Remains in Society will raise these issues by examining when, how and why bodies are hidden or exhibited. Using case studies from multiple continents, each chapter will interrogate their effect on human remains, either desired or unintended, on various political, cultural or religious practices. How, for instance, do issues of confiscation, concealment or the destruction of bodies and body parts in mass crime impact on transitional processes, commemoration or judicial procedures?
Destruction and human remains investigates a crucial question frequently neglected from academic debate in the fields of mass violence and Genocide Studies: what is done to the bodies of the victims after they are killed? Indeed, in the context of mass violence and genocide, death does not constitute the end of the executors' work. Following the abuses carried out by the latter, their victims' remains are treated and manipulated in very particular ways, amounting in some cases to social engineering. The book explores this phase of destruction, whether by disposal, concealment or complete annihilation of the body, across a range of extreme situations to display the intentions and socio-political framework of governments, perpetrators and bystanders. The book will be split into three sections; 1) Who were the perpetrators and why were they chosen? It will be explored whether a division of labour created social hierarchies or criminal careers, or whether in some cases this division existed at all. 2) How did the perpetrators kill and dispose of the bodies? What techniques and technologies were employed, and how does this differ between contrasting and evolving circumstances? 3) Why did the perpetrators implement such methods and what does this say about their motivations and ideologies? The book will focus in particular on the twentieth century, displaying innovative and interdisciplinary approaches and dealing with case studies from different geographical areas across the globe. The focus will be placed on a re-evaluation of the motivations, the ideological frameworks and the technical processes displayed in the destruction of bodies.
theory (‘between bio- and necropolitics’), the structuralist-functionalist anthropology of burial rituals (‘rites of separation and the sacralisation of authority’) and recent ideas of agency
and materiality (‘dead agency’). Despite their differences, the various
approaches point towards an excess of meaning and affect relating
to dead bodies and human remains, something that evokes the mystical, the sacred, the liminal and the transgressive, which, in the end,
The following nine chapters are organised in two parts. The first,
as well as other political
and moral communities.
This chapter sets out the theoretical terrain that the authors of
the volume navigate in their analyses, a terrain where dead bodies
and sovereign practice intersect. More specifically it looks at four
different approaches, including psychoanalysis (‘fear of death’), critical theory (‘between bio- and necropolitics’), the anthropology of
rituals (‘sacralisation of authority’) and lastly more recent ideas of
materiality and alterity (‘dead agency’).
Fear of death
The point seems rather banal and commonsensical: the
Introduction. Corpses in society:
about human remains, necro-politics,
necro-economy and the legacy
of mass violence
Élisabeth Anstett and Jean-Marc Dreyfus
The visible presence of human remains within societies is not a
new phenomenon.1 Whether these remains have been placed on
view for religious reasons (through the creation of ossuaries or
the use of relics, for example), for the purposes of experimental
science (in particular through the use and preservation of human
tissues and skeletons by the disciplines of medicine, biology and
The bodyand counter-revolutionary warfare inapartheid South Africa
invasion of the body 42
Scholars warn against seeking to explain violence through examin
ing its causes or functions and the instrumentalization thereof.
To do so may reduce violence ‘to a practical tool used by opposing
social actors in pursuit of conflicting ends. Whether treated as a
cause, function, or instrument, violence is generally assumed
rather than examined in its concreteness.’ 43 While mindful of this
warning, the concern here is not to explain violence but to explore
an aspect of necropolitics,44 namely the corpse as ‘thing’ and how,
even after its
Corpse, bodypolitics and contestation in contemporary Guatemala
Ninna Nyberg Sørensen
two women are killed each day, the killings are committed
with extreme brutality, including sexual violence, torture and mutilations, before the bodies are left or dumped in public places. The
injured bodies and shattered body parts provide insights into what
Achille Mbembe (2003) has defined as necropolitics and Melissa
Wright (2011) has shown to unfold through the gendering of space,
violence and subjectivity.
Manuela Sachaz was a babysitter, newly arrived from the countryside to Guatemala City to take care of a ten-month-old baby.
Returning from work her
The violent pursuit of cultural sovereignty during authoritarian rule in Argentina
Antonius C.G.M. Robben
democratic government tried to purge the fallen regime’s necropolitical
control from Argentine society through a truth commission, criminal trials, exhumations and the rule of law but was held hostage by
the military’s refusal to resolve the liminal condition of the livingdead; even thirty years later when nearly a thousand perpetrators
were convicted or indicted for human rights violations.
Cultural war and the process of national
The Argentine armed forces did not stage a coup d’état in March
1976 to fight the insurgency more effectively, because they had
consideration of the following
question: ‘Under what practical conditions is the right to kill, to allow to live, or to
expose to death exercised?’41 This approach, referred to as necropolitics, builds on
similar foundations to Agamben, taking it a step further to exert the power to control
those who live and die.
The increasing prominence of work by scholars such as Agamben and Mbembe
within international relations has stimulated a vibrant debate over the application
of such ideas to the contemporary world.42 One of the main points of tension in
Agamben’s work is concerned