The shipwreck of Rota. Moralities of violent death in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands

Perl, Gerhild (9 June 2017). The shipwreck of Rota. Moralities of violent death in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands (Unpublished). In: Death at the Margins of the State. Bath. 9 - 10 June 2017.

Migratory death at the southern maritime borders of Europe is not a new phenomenon; rather it has ebbed and flowed over the last three decades. My paper illuminates this continuity through the case-study of a deadly shipwreck at the shores of the Spanish village Rota in 2003 and further investigates how responsibility for deceased migrants at Europe’s border is distributed, assumed, and rejected. My paper rests on a transnational ethnographic fieldwork in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands and explores how the sudden presence of unknown dead bodies affects local people as well as how the bereaved struggle with the absence of these bodies and wonder about their whereabouts. Exploring the question, how and by whom responsibility for dead bodies at the border is assumed, rejected, and distributed; I argue the significance of the affective dimension of dead bodies for the livings’ decision to take on responsibility for their fate. Therefore, I explore how affects and materiality bound up with one another and how this connection is experienced. Departing from my empirical findings at cemeteries, morgues, and funeral parlours as well as interviews with police officers, the paper further aims at critically reflecting upon the state’s distribution of responsibility for the deceased to local administrations and organisations. The exploration of a historical case provides an important reminder that death in migration towards the EU has a history that reveals conflicting moral dispositions and constitutions in contemporary Europe.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Speech)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Perl, Gerhild


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology




Gerhild Perl

Date Deposited:

11 Sep 2017 15:09

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:06


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