Paolo Boccagni will give a presentation at the second international conference of the interdisciplinary network Thanatic Ethics – The circulation of bodies in migratory spaces, in Kolkata next week. Paolo’s presentation will be on: “Where should it be, and what should it look like? Mapping migrant imaginaries, moralities and aesthetics about their ‘final homes'”. See the abstract and the conference programme below.

Where should it be, and what should it look like?

Mapping migrant imaginaries, moralities and aesthetics about their “final homes” 

Paolo Boccagni (University of Trento – paolo.boccagni@unitn.it)

This paper reads across the scholarship in migration and refugee studies, as well as the relevant production in humanities and arts, to explore the repertoires of expectations, moralities and aesthetics about the location and characteristics of migrant final homes – the places where they are to be buried and, for them as much for anybody else, the only permanent home. Drawing on the emerging literature on what has long been seen as either an irrelevant or a taboo topic, I explore, on one hand, the prevalent aspirations regarding the location (i.e. country and local context) and characteristics of migrants’ final home, and their variation across time, cultural background and life course position; on the other hand, the ways in which migrant tombs – as the literature suggests – articulate continuity (literally, embeddedness) with the community of origin, distinction (wherever located), assimilation (i.e. hardly distinguishable from the mainstream), or even absence and loss, whenever they are replaced by some form of collective memorialization, e.g. for those who died on border crossing and were never found out or recognized. Drawing on the social study of home, and looking at tombs themselves as the ultimate and irreversible location of home, my contribution explores if, and how, burial places embody memories that are consonant or dissonant with migrant own identities, aspirations, and achievements. This means combining research on migrant imaginaries and concerns about their own burial, and case studies of burial places, across a very rich, disperse and fragmented field of scholarship.