(Book Projects) Dying Abroad // Unwanted Bodies

(Articles and Book Chapters) Transnational Afterlives of European Muslims // The Cemetery of Traitors // Not In My Graveyard // Islamic Deathscapes of Germany // Charlie Hebdo and Politics of Mourning // Between Civil Society and State // Burial and Belonging // Until Death Do Us Depart

BOOK DESCRIPTION
Scholars of migration have long studied the movement of living persons but the peripatetic nature of migratory life does not ease in death. Where does a dead body belong? For immigrants, the answer is far from obvious. On any given day, thousands of migrant corpses are shipped around the world to be laid in ancestral soils. Others are buried in local cemeteries established to accommodate ethnic and religious minorities, where available. In situations where migratory processes have introduced spatial discontinuities between countries of birth and death, the act of burial serves as a means to assert belonging, attachment, and perhaps even loyalty to a particular community, country, or place. It confers a final sense of fixity to identities that are decidedly more fluid or ambivalent in life. When the boundaries of the nation and its members are contested, burial decisions are political acts.

Dying Abroad is the first book to explore in detail how minoritized communities in Europe navigate end-of-life decisions in countries where they face structural barriers to political inclusion—a phenomenon I call “death out of place.” It argues that states, families, and religious communities all have a vested interest in the fate of dead bodies— including where and how they are disposed of and memorialized— and demonstrates that the seemingly quotidian practices attending the death, burial, and repatriation of racial and religious minorities are structured by deeper political and existential questions about the meaning of citizenship, belonging, and home in an increasingly transnational world. At a time when a growing chorus of European politicians lambast the “failures of multiculturalism” and call for the fortification of national borders, Dying Abroad illustrates how posthumous practices anchor minority claims for political inclusion while simultaneously challenging hegemonic ideas about the boundaries of nation-states and the place of immigrants within them.

BOOK DESCRIPTION
This book project investigates the cultural politics of memory in the wake of political violence and state terrorism. It explores how the treatment and commemoration of both victims and perpetrators of violence is fundamental to the constitution and contestation of collective identity. Case studies include the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, Turkey's "Cemetery of Traitors," the exhumation and reburial of Francisco Franco in Spain, and recent debates around colonial and confederate monuments in Europe, South Africa, and the United States.
ABSTRACT
How do European Muslims navigate death and burial in countries where they face systematic barriers to political inclusion? This article investigates the complex negotiations surrounding end-of-life decisions for Muslim communities in France and Germany. Drawing on multi-sited ethnographic research among Algerian and Turkish diasporas in Marseilles and Berlin, it illustrates how burial decisions reflect divergent ideas about citizenship, belonging, and identity. While some Muslims are interred in local cemeteries, many more are repatriated out of Europe to be laid to rest in ancestral soils in countries of origin. Through interviews with Muslim death-care workers and community members, this article theorizes the significance and symbolic value that such posthumous journeys carry in postmigratory settings. It argues that the Muslim corpse embodies a range of overlapping desires, experiences, and expectations connected to histories of migration, settlement, and return, as well as attitudes towards death and beliefs about the afterlife. Consequently, the corpse offers a compelling window into the transnational afterlives of migration and empire.
As Freud once observed, “everyone owes nature a death.” Most people, except those who commit suicide, have no control over their own death; they do not know when, where, and how they are going to die. However, many have a say over where and how to be buried or otherwise handled after their death. Such decisions are deeply personal, reflecting among other things, different ideas about the body, the soul, and the afterlife. They take on an added political valence in post-migratory settings where racial and religious minorities face systematic barriers to full citizenship and equal social standing. For immigrants and their children, the moment of death is a critical juncture where long-standing questions about the meaning of home and homeland come to the fore. In determining whether to inhume their loved ones locally or to repatriate their remains to ancestral soils for burial, families with migratory histories wrestle with a complex set of emotional, cultural, and political questions that reflect their ambivalent status in dominant national imaginaries. At a moment when widespread xenophobia and cultural chauvinism has once again revealed the tenuous nature of political community in many European societies, end-of-life practices offer an arresting and underexplored site to examine the dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. They illustrate how the elusive quest for belonging can follow individuals to the grave.

This article draws on ethnographic research conducted in Marseilles, France (Masarwa) and Berlin, Germany (Balkan), which included participant observation with Muslim death-care workers (undertakers and corpse washers) and interviews with first- and second-generation immigrant families, consular officials, and representatives of Islamic civil society associations and funeral funds offering postmortem services. Through these interviews as well as close readings of primary source materials like burial laws, insurance contracts, and advertisements for Islamic funerary services, we gained insight into the actors, networks, institutions, and legal structures that determine the movement of dead bodies within and across international borders. We also began to apprehend the significance that individuals from different backgrounds attribute to the location of burial and the different reasons motivating their decisions to repatriate or bury locally.

Although we conducted our fieldwork separately in two distinct urban settings, we discovered significant points of convergence in our interlocutors’ reflections upon end-of-life decisions and their sociocultural and political implications. Our findings contribute to a growing body of transdisciplinary scholarship that takes death as a productive, generative starting point and sees in postmortem rituals and practices a useful window into sovereignty, borders, citizenship, gender, and world making. By illustrating what might be understood as the “push” and “pull” factors that determine the afterlives of European Muslims, this article complements existing work on death in (post)migratory settings. Acknowledging the great diversity of migratory trajectories around the world, we see important commonalities in what Yasmin Gunaratnam has called “transnational dying,” that shed light on the complexities and contradictions of political membership, identity, and belonging in the 21st century.

Coming Soon.
ABSTRACT
This chapter examines the aftermath of the 2016 failed military coup in Turkey through the political afterlives of its victims and perpetrators. Focusing on the so-called "Cemetery of Traitors" (established to inter the remains of dead coup plotters) as well as the funeral ceremonies of soldiers and civilians who died during the coup attempt, I illustrate how corpses become politicized sites of struggle and resistance and argue that the treatment and commemoration of the dead is a critical means through which states and other actors demarcate the contours of national, religious, and political communities
The corpse arrived on a balmy summer afternoon. Neither the ambulance driver nor the cemetery workers knew the identity of the deceased, whose unwashed, bloodied body was shrouded in mystery and a simple white cloth. No prayers or religious incantations were uttered as workers lowered the body into an unmarked, anonymous grave. No friends or family members were present to witness the burial. The only onlookers were a pack of stray dogs who languidly roamed the rock-strewn fields of the hastily constructed cemetery. The body, that of thirty-four-year-old military captain Mehmet Karabekir, was not to be mourned.

Karabekir had the dubious honour of being the first inhabitant of the ‘Cemetery of Traitors’ (Hainler Mezarlığı), a burial ground established by Turkish authorities to house the remains of putschists killed during their attempt to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a failed military coup on 15 July 2016, which led to the imposition of a two-year state of emergency and the arrest and/or dismissal of an unprecedented number of civil servants, teachers, academics and journalists in Turkey. The cemetery was the brainchild of Istanbul’s then mayor, Kadir Topbaş, who unveiled his plans at a massive public rally held in the name of safeguarding democracy on 19 July 2016. ‘I ordered a place to be reserved and to call it the Cemetery of Traitors,’ he told the flag-waving crowd that had gathered in Taksim Square. ‘ Those who pass by should curse them! They cannot escape hell but we must also make them suffer in their graves!

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On May 6, 2013, a group of protestors gathered outside the Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, Massachusetts. Inside the funeral home lay the corpse of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who, along with his brother Dzohkar, had orchestrated the bombing of the Boston Marathon a few weeks prior. The attacks had resulted in three deaths and injured more than 250 people. In the citywide manhunt that ensued, Tamerlan was killed in a shootout with the police. His brother, Dzokhar was apprehended and taken into custody.

Nobody knew what would happen with Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body, but the protestors were incensed about the possibility that it might be interred in the Boston area. Many brandished American flags and signs with messages like “Bury the garbage in the landfill,” and “Boston Strong.” A middle-aged man in a red WrestleMania XVI T-shirt held a placard with a graphic image of Tsnarnaev’s battered corpse that read, “Wrap his body in pigskin and dump it in the ocean—even that is too good for the shithead.” Other protestors carried signs stating, “It’s a disgrace to our military,” and “Bury this terrorist on U.S. soil and we will unbury him—American Justice.”

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Anxieties about the place of Islam and Muslims in Europe underpin a wide range of contemporary debates over the mean-ing of secularism, democracy, citizenship, and national identity. Politicians and pundits across the political spectrum question whether Islam is compatible with European values and ways of life. Such discussions often focus on the visibility of Islamic signs and symbols in the public sphere. Although Muslim presence in Europe has been evident in urban landscapes for decades, the public visibility of Islam, as Nilüfer Göle argues, “disturbs the collective imaginary of European countries shaped by the secular values of freedom and a non-religious way of life.”

In attempting to understand why Islamic symbols have provoked backlash in various European countries, scholars have often focused on conflicts involving female headscarves or the construction of mosques. In this memo, I’d like to draw attention to a somewhat neglected site of public Islam that is, nonetheless, highly consequential for European Muslims: the cemetery...

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ABSTRACT
This article explores the different forms of mourning that structured the public and political memorialization of the victims and perpetrators of the Paris attacks by analyzing the discourses, ceremonies, and negotiations accompanying their funerals. It argues that political actors employed three distinct strategies of mourning to produce a hierarchy of French subjects organized around a spectrum of grievability. The first strategy, “mourning as erasure,” was characteristic of the funerals of the three terrorists and evinced an active effort by the French state to efface any trace of their memory. The second, “mourning as exclusionary-inclusion,” was exemplified in the ceremonies held in honor of Ahmed Merabet, a police officer mourned as a loyal guardian of the French Republic in terms that maintained his subordinate status as a religious outsider. The third strategy, “mourning as appropriation,” was most pronounced at the funerals of the four victims of the attack on the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher. Held in Israel, these ceremonies offered an emotional platform for both French and Israeli leaders to claim the Jewish victims as their own. These disparate strategies of mourning highlight the different ways that the dead help demarcate the boundaries of political communities.
On 20 January 2015, Frédéric Boisseau was buried in the village of Villiers-sous-Grez, eighty kilometers south of Paris. Boisseau, a 42-year-old maintenance worker, was shot dead in the lobby of the Charlie Hebdo building moments after two men armed with AK-47s burst through the front door. He was the first casualty in a series of terrorist attacks that left twenty people dead, including several members of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial staff, four hostages at a kosher supermarket, three police officers, and the perpetrators themselves. In the widespread demonstrations that followed, millions took to the streets under the rallying cry “Je suis Charlie” to mourn the loss of life and express solidarity with the French Republic. Yet, as his brother Christophe bitterly observed, Boisseau’s death was largely “forgotten,” having been eclipsed by the others.

Speaking at Boisseau’s funeral, Minister of Labor François Rebsamen acknowledged that the victims “did not [all] have the same notoriety” nor “receive the same media coverage.” He insisted, however, that “there is no hierarchy when it comes to suffering or tributes.” All of the victims would be equally “mourned by the Republic,” he continued, “because the Republic forgets nothing, forgets no one. The Republic does not distinguish between its children. She has only one child: the French people.”

Contrary to Rebsamen’s claims, this article contends that the Republic does in fact distinguish between its citizens and shows how the creation of a hierarchy of French subjects is predicated upon differential practices of mourning...

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ABSTRACT
This article explores the intercultural negotiations around the death and burial of Muslims in Germany. In particular, it examines the mediating role that Muslim undertakers play between immigrant families and the German state. Drawing on an ethnographic study of Turkish funeral homes and the Islamic funeral industry in Berlin, it argues that undertakers’ ability to navigate the regulatory structures of the German bureaucracy and the cultural expectations of their customers is a defining feature of their occupational identity and a principal source of their professional authority. As intermediaries between civil society and the state, undertakers guide families through the cultural, religious, political, and legal landscapes that structure the transitions from life to death. In burying the dead and tending to the living, they must reconcile competing sets of administrative and cultural norms surrounding death and interment. In doing so, the Muslim undertakers of Berlin preside not only over end-of-life decisions and their theological implications, but also over pedagogical moments in processes of political and cultural integration in contemporary Germany.
Undertakers occupy a unique niche in the world of professions. Although they operate within the legal parameters of the market, their proximity to death and the disquieting idea that their livelihood is based on the grief and suffering of others can be a source of stigmatisation (Thompson 1991, Cahill 1995). Conversely, their ability to help guide families through difficult and often painful situations can earn undertakers a great deal of respect and admiration from the communities they serve (Laderman 2003, Smith 2010). While their primary task is the disposal of the dead, a central component of undertakers’ professional responsibility involves attending to the living. In this capacity, they assume different roles and perform a wide range of activities from bereavement support and religious counselling to legal arbitration and conflict resolution (Lynch 1997). The work of undertaking takes on political salience in multicultural settings where different ethnic and religious groups have divergent views on death and dying, end-of-life care, and the proper treatment of corpses. In situations where there is some uncertainty. This article explores the intercultural negotiations around the death and burial of Muslims in Germany. In particular, it examines the mediating role that Muslim undertakers play between immigrant families and the German state. The rites and rituals associated with death are remarkably varied across cultures, as are the laws and institutions that regulate the governance of dead bodies. When a death occurs in migratory situations, families are often compelled to negotiate alternative systems of burial and memorialisation (Oliver 2004). The laws of the dead can be at odds with the cultural traditions and religious beliefs of immigrant groups, leading to conflicts around the handling of corpses (Renteln 2001, Carpenter, B., et al., 2015). Moreover, death rituals themselves might undergo change in migratory contexts when immigrants encounter different ways of performing funerary rites and adapt their own practices in response to institutional constraints in the host society (Venhorst 2012)...

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ABSTRACT
This article explores the role that funerary practices and burial decisions play in the construction of national and political identities amongst Muslim immigrants in Germany. Drawing on ethnographic research and interviews with Islamic undertakers, migrant families, and religious leaders in Berlin it argues that the act of burial serves as a powerful means to assert belonging in migratory settings. While local burial laws impact the feasibility of Islamic funerary rites, this article suggests that family ties, ideas about the soil, and feelings of social exclusion play a larger role in shaping burial outcomes than the laws of the dead. By conferring a sense of fixity or permanence to identities that are more fluid or ambivalent in life, determining where a dead body belongs helps demarcate social and communal boundaries.
Funerals are highly charged events that reaffirm social ties and communal boundaries. They offer a window into people’s understanding of the social order and their place within it. By conveying information about the deceased and their community, funerals also help substantiate the position of the living vis-à-vis the dead and each other. As universally occurring public rituals, they are symbolically powerful moments in the constitution of individual and collective identities. While the content of mortuary ceremonies varies substantially, every funeral necessarily involves disposal of the dead body. For groups whose religious or cultural traditions stipulate interment, the question of where and how to bury a body is a critical one. It takes on added urgency in migratory contexts where certain groups encounter legal obstacles to the performance of customary funerary rites. In such settings, conflicts over the treatment of corpses can lead to emotional anguish as families attempt to balance the competing imperatives of state law and religious obligation...

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Where does a dead body belong? For minority communities in migratory settings, the answer is far from obvious. While death is a universally shared human experience, the geographical character of loss is foregrounded in situations where the country of birth and death are not the same. Determining where to bury a family member is tied to larger processes of social positioning, boundary construction, and identity formation. As a place-making project, the act of burial helps shape individual and collective identities by communicating information about the deceased and their community. It signals not only who the deceased was but where they belong.

This paper considers the phenomenon of repatriation for burial, a practice that is common amongst the Turkish diaspora in Germany. It focuses on two funeral funds administered by the largest and most established Turkish Islamic associations in Europe, Diyanet İşleri Türk İslam Birliği (The Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, hereafter DITIB) and Islamisch Gemeinschaft Milli G.rüş (Islamic Community Milli Görüş, hereafter IGMG). I contend that the funds encourage a form of necropatriotism by providing material incentives for the repatriation of dead bodies to Turkey. Although they do not explicitly require that their members be repatriated for burial, an overwhelming majority of fund members (upwards of ninety to ninety-five percent) choose to do so. Due to space constraints, this paper does not address the complex constellation of reasons that compel people to partake in this transnational ritual. Instead, it focuses on the institutional dimension of funeral provision amongst the Turkish community in order to highlight the structural parameters that shape and constrain individual actions and end-of-life decisions. In contrast to accounts that read repatriation as a reflection of migrants’ low level of integration in their country of residence or as a sign of nostalgia for their homeland, I argue that institutionalized incentive structures and economic calculations play a considerable role in determining where dead migrants will be buried.

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(Other Publications) Bring Out Your Dead! // Disorder at the Border // Islam and the Politics of Culture

In a story recounted by Cicero, Diogenes the Cynic, a philosopher known for his eccentric behavior (he supposedly lived in a barrel near the Athenian Agora and roamed the city with a lantern during daylight in search of an honest man), is said to have told his followers to avoid burying him upon his death. He preferred that they toss his corpse over the city walls to let nature take its course. Seeing their horrified reactions, Diogenes advised them to leave a staff near his dead body so that he could drive away the wild beasts that would inevitably consume it. “But how can you do that,” they asked, “for you will not perceive them?” “How am I then injured by being torn by those animals,” Diogenes replied, “if I have no sensation?”

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More than one million migrants and refugees have crossed into Europe since 2015, sparking a massive humanitarian and political crisis as European Union member states struggle to manage the influx of people and the responsibility of resettling them. For many, these voyages have been fraught with danger and peril. Thousands have perished in the Mediterranean Sea, and many more have suffered in the hands of brutal human trafficking organizations. The vast majority of those seeking to enter Europe are fleeing ongoing conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Others, looking to escape poverty and economic uncertainty, come from within the borders of Europe, from places like Kosovo, Albania, and Serbia. As tensions over resettlement escalate and violent clashes between asylum seekers and EU citizens become more frequent, the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ poses one of the most significant threats to the fragile political balance of Europe today...

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Questions concerning visibility are central to discussions about Islam and Muslims in Europe. The current tide of right-wing backlash against the purported “Islamization of Europe” is fueled in part by the idea that public manifestations of Islamic identities threaten the secular foundations of European liberal democracies. While such movements promote a narrow understanding of Islam that posits its incompatibility with European values, a large body of scholarly work has emphasized the heterogeneity and diversity of European Islam in an effort to shift the conversation away from the visibility of European Muslims to the ways in which they are visualized. Set against the backdrop of a proliferation of novels, films, and television programs engaging with Islam and a growing number of institutional initiatives aimed at incorporating Islam into European cultural memory and art, this edited volume offers a critical reappraisal of contemporary cultural production in Europe by examining it “in relation to the political rationalities of governing Islam” (9)...

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