This paper examines what happens to migrant bodies after they die. It demonstrates that the governance of the dead is intimately linked to the construction of the nation and the enactment of sovereignty. Through a comparative study of the mortuary practices of ethno-religious minorities in Germany, it highlights the ways that death structures political membership and identity. By tracing the actors, networks, and institutions that determine the movement of dead bodies within and across international borders, it analyzes how relations between authority, territory, and populations are managed at a transnational level. Building on extensive fieldwork conducted in Berlin and Istanbul in 2013-2015, I show how the corpse functions as a political actor by structuring claims about citizenship, belonging, and collective identity. In contexts where the boundaries of the nation and its demos are contested, burial decisions are political decisions. While burial in Germany offers a symbolically powerful means for migrants and their children to assert political membership and foster a sense of belonging, the widespread practice of posthumous repatriation illustrates the continued importance of transnational ties and serves as an indictment of an exclusionary socio-political order. In both situations, the corpse is central to localizing and grounding political claims for recognition and inclusion.
Osman Balkan est visiting assistant professor au département de sciences politiques au Swarthmore College. Il a obtenu son B.A. de Reed College (2005) et son doctorat à l’Université de Pennsylvanie (2016). Ses intérêts de recherche portent sur la politique de migration, transnationalisme et diasporas, l’Islam en Europe, la race et l’origine ethnique, et nécropolitique.