Accepted paper:

Hope, death and despair


Finn Stepputat (Danish institute for international studies (DIIS))

Paper short abstract:

The paper will explore the possibilities of researching changing patterns of hope and despair by looking into politics and organization of the identification, repatriation and burial of dead migrants.

Paper long abstract:

Hopes for a better life elsewhere often go together with the hope of being buried 'at home'. Burial may be seen as "the ultimate test of belonging" (Geshiere) and migrant associations have a long history of establishing themselves around mutual support for burial arrangements, but also states and religious congregations have involved themselves in the issue. Whereas the individual hope for being buried at home does not correspond to Ernst Bloch's political-utopian "principle of hope", migrants' (and exiles') burial societies have, in particular in the 20th century, formed kernels of political movements for national independence, revolution and other social utopias. The question is 1) how migrants are involved in politics of death and disposal in the context of 21st century forms of mobility and 2) if/how these are related to wider political projects of hope. A particular case is the politics of the identification and repatriation of individuals who have died in the attempt to cross borders, an issue that states, NGOs, migrant associations and other social entities have become involved in and which link up to larger, critical movements. The paper will mainly seek to establish a conceptual framework for how new geographies of hope and despair may be explored through a focus on negotiations over the death and burial of migrants.

panel MMM14
New geographies of hope and despair