Un appel à contribution est ouvert pour un colloque Death on the Move: Managing narratives and constraints in transnational settings, 13-14 mars 2014, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisbonne.
In spite of the interest that the recent status of Portugal as an immigration country arises and all the research that has been done, some important issues dealing with immigrant´s states of suffering and death, the “states of affliction” have hardly been dealt with. Death, in particular, remains a difficult but crucial aspect that has not been touched by the studies on migration.
How do immigrants perceive death and dying and incorporate them in their conceptualization of the diaspora? How do different immigrant groups conceptualize other groups´ suffering and death? How do the Portuguese look upon the death of the immigrants, a subject ever hardly spoken of and which raises a series of prejudices and mystifications?
In a western society where death has become a major taboo, and is thought of as something that only happens to the others, this estrangement towards life´s last rite of passage moves on to the realm of myth and prejudices that affect immigrants in Portugal, and the invisibility of death becomes a true reality. Yet, for immigrants themselves, it is a reality that often conditions the relation with the home country. Death is thus here looked upon not as a moment in time but 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 two days conference pretends to analyze 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—along with critical debate on the meaning of “transnational” and its manifold features. 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. Trapped in a condition of liminality, part of two worlds — the home grounds and the novel territory they try to adapt to—, wishing for a justification to go home, it is often death that triggers the movement: either the death of someone here and the body that has to be sent back or the death of someone dear back home.
Such circulation luxury becomes real through solidarity movements based on associations of migrants or some type of intra-groups solidarity.
The seminar will have a double format. On the one hand, several of the researchers on the research project “The invisibility of death among migrants in Portugal” ((PTDC/CS-ANT/102862/2008) will present their findings on the project. We will also have some invited guest lecturers. For the time being, we are counting on the participation of several specialists on the Anthropology of death and ritual, such as Maurice Bloch (London School of Economics), Eric Gable (University of Mary Washington) and Peter Metcalf (University of Virginia). But we want to open the seminar to the dialogue with other fellow colleagues who are interested on the subject. We therefore welcome a restricted numbers of papers that will allow us to compare the Portuguese case with other research done on the topic of immigrants terminal diseases and death. These papers, which we plan to later on edit on a joint volume to be published by Cambridge Press may address issues of the deconstruction of prejudiced notions of what happens with the immigrants´ dead bodies; symbolic representations of immigrants death; practical issues, such as legal processes involved to send the bodies home; other issues of the trans nationalization of death; special studies on attitudes towards death and rituals in specific ethnographic contexts. We will accept papers centered on ethnography as well as more theoretical ones.
Please send your proposals (max 300 words, with a short bionote) by December 7th to
The accepted papers will be notified by December 20th.