Accepted Paper:

Caring, suffering and dying in the diaspora: management of death in transnational settings - Africans in Portugal  


Clara Saraiva (ICS, University of Lisbon)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will deal with the multiple levels (practical as well as symbolic) that an immigrant´s death in contemporary Portugal touches upon, from the symbolic to the more practical ones. It will analyze the case studies of migrants from Guinea-Bissau.

Paper long abstract:

In spite of the interest that the recent status of Portugal as an immigration country arises, some important issues dealing with immigrant´s states of suffering and death, have hardly been dealt with. For immigrants themselves, this is a reality that often conditions the relation with the home country. Death is thus here looked upon as a process, which involves specific emotional states and triggers the use of rituals in order to cope with the unavoidable distress, acquiring more complicated aspects when away from home.

This paper will deal with the multiple levels that death touches upon, from the symbolic to the more practical ones. Death is one realm in which a transnational approach is mandatory; it entails an intense circulation of material goods and wealth, but also of highly symbolic significant universes which circulate along with the goods and the people: the corpse, but also the spirits and the relations with the other world that people brought along into the diaspora situation. This paper aims at deconstructing prejudiced notions of what happens with the immigrants´ dead bodies, including symbolic representations as well as practical issues, such as legal processes involved to send the bodies home, using as case studies the immigrants from Guinea-Bissau in contemporary Portugal. Based on ethnographic data, it will deal with the work done by immigrants´associations, and other intervenient in the process-- hospitals, funerary agencies, diplomatic and border authorities and religious institutions.

Panel P126
Politics of life and death and the practice of caring