Restless bodies: Post-mortem mobility in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands

Perl, Gerhild (13 November 2015). Restless bodies: Post-mortem mobility in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands (Unpublished). In: Annual Conference of the Swiss Ethnological Society: Global Capitalism and the Challenge of Well‐Being in the World. University of Bern. 12.-14.11.2015.

Since the mid-1980s migrants from Maghreb and sub-Saharan countries irregularly cross the Strait of Gibraltar, in hopes of a better future for themselves and their families. Travelling in small, poorly equipped boats without experienced captains is a life-threatening endeavour and has cost the life of myriad border crossers. Many of these bodies will never be recovered and the bereaved will never know whether their relatives and friends are alive or not and thus they are often captured in a state of not-knowing. But even if a body is recovered, families rarely get notice of the demise, the circumstances of death, and the whereabouts of the remains. In this paper, I will depict the fate of recovered bodies at Spanish shores by focusing on their mobility and uncertain belongings after death. A dead body passes through different stages: the body might be stored in a morgue for months, moved within the same cemetery after years, or – once identified – repatriated or transferred to another country. Diverse and unknown national and religious belongings of the dead, which remain in Spain, are often homogenised by dominant local burial practices. The aim of this paper is to develop an analysis of diverging post-mortem treatments by emphasising on different actors involved. To do so, I firstly show in how far border-related deaths influence and shape moralities, feelings, and actions of local people; secondly, I shift the focus to power relations within identification processes, which prevent or enable grief and mourning rituals. Finally, I will conclude that the analysis of the mobility (or immobility) and uncertain belongings reveals not only different forms of ethical practices of local actors but also mechanisms of power within the management of the dead bodies at Europe’s shores.

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:

31 May 2017 13:49

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:03


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