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The handling of the deceased during the COVID-19 pandemic, a case study in France and Switzerland
Gaëlle Clavandier, Marc-Antoine Berthod, Philippe Charrier, Martin Julier-Costes, and Veronica Pagnamenta

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about an unprecedented global crisis. To limit the spread of the virus and the associated excess mortality, states and governing bodies have produced a series of regulations and recommendations from a health perspective. The funerary aspects of these directives have reconfigured not only the ways in which the process of dying can be accompanied, but also the management of dead bodies, impacting on the dying, their relatives and professionals in the sector. Since March 2020, the entire process of separation and farewell has been affected, giving rise to public debates about funeral restrictions and the implications for mourning. We carried out a study in France and Switzerland to measure the effects of this crisis, and in particular to explore whether it has involved a shift from a funerary approach to a strictly mortuary one. Have the practices that would normally be observed in non-pandemic times been irrevocably altered? Does this extend to all deaths? Has there been a switch to an exclusively technical handling? Are burial practices still respected? The results of the present study pertain to the ‘first wave’ of spring 2020 and focus on the practices of professionals working in the funeral sector.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Exception and rupture?
Graham Denyer Willis, Finn Stepputat, and Gaëlle Clavandier
Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Pandemic and management of dead bodies in Brazil
Liliana Sanjurjo, Desirée Azevedo, and Larissa Nadai

This article analyses the management of bodies in Brazil within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Its objective is to examine how the confluence of underreporting, inequality and alterations in the forms of classifying and managing bodies has produced a political practice that aims at the mass infection of the living and the quick disposal of the dead. We first present the factors involved in the process of underreporting of the disease and its effects on state registration and regulation of bodies. Our analysis then turns to the cemetery to problematise the dynamics through which inequality and racism are re-actualised and become central aspects of the management of the pandemic in Brazil. We will focus not only on the policies of managing bodies adopted during the pandemic but also on those associated with other historical periods, examining continuities and ruptures, as well as their relationship to long-term processes.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Open Access (free)
Presumed black immunity to yellow fever and the racial politics of burial labour in 1855 Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia
Michael D. Thompson

Epidemic disease regularly tore through nineteenth-century American cities, triggering public health crises and economic upheaval. These epidemic panics also provoked new racialised labour regimes, affecting the lives of innumerable working people. During yellow fever outbreaks, white authorities and employers preferred workers of colour over ‘unacclimated’ white immigrants, reflecting a common but mistaken belief in black invulnerability. This article chronicles enslaved burial labourers in antebellum Virginia, who leveraged this notion to seize various privileges – and nearly freedom. These episodes demonstrate that black labour, though not always black suffering or lives, mattered immensely to white officials managing these urban crises. Black workers were not mere tools for protecting white wealth and health, however, as they often risked torment and death to capitalise on employers’ desperation for their essential labour. This history exposes racial and socioeconomic divergence between those able to shelter or flee from infection, and those compelled to remain exposed and exploitable.

Human Remains and Violence: An Interdisciplinary Journal
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Movements of people, objects, and ideas in the southern Balkans
Author: Rozita Dimova

This book is a theoretical and ethnographic study of the shifting border between the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece. The central argument is that political borders between states not only restrict or regulate the movement of people and things but are also always porous and permeable, exceeding state governmentality. To support this argument the book draws on scholarship from geology that describes and classifies different kinds of rock porosity. Just as seemingly solid rock is often laden with pores that allow the passage of liquids and gases, so too are ostensibly impenetrable borders laden with forms and infrastructures of passage. This metaphor is theoretically powerful, as it facilitates the idea of border porosities through a varied set of case studies centered on the Greek–Macedonian border. The case studies include: the history of railways in the region, border-town beauty tourism, child refugees during the Greek Civil War, transnational mining corporations and environmental activism, and, finally, a massive, highly politicized urban renewal project. Using interdisciplinary frameworks combining anthropology, history, philosophy, and geology, the book analyzes permeations triggered by the border and its porous nature that underline the empirical, political, and philosophical processes with all their emancipatory or restrictive effects.

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Porous trails at the border
Rozita Dimova

The conclusion revisits theory and the possibilities offered by porosity both as a conceptual and an analytical tool, as well as its relevance for the contemporary Balkan realities around and within the border regions.

in Border porosities
Beauty, entertainment, and gambling in the EU periphery
Rozita Dimova

This chapter focuses on Gevgelija’s transformation from a small town previously known only as the last point on a freeway (once called Bratstvo i Edinstvo “Brotherhood and Unity”) linking the former Yugoslav capitals of Skopje, Belgrade, Zagreb, and Ljubljana with Thessaloniki. Gevgelija is now called the “Balkan Las Vegas,” where Greek citizens cross the border on a regular basis to obtain cheap beauty and health services, and also to shop for everyday produce and groceries. This surge of visitors from Greece who come to shop and gamble has transformed the face of the town. The presence of several large, luxurious casino-hotels has enabled Gevgelija to become one of the most economically successful places in the region with one of the lowest unemployment rates.

in Border porosities
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The name dispute and the Prespa Agreement
Rozita Dimova

The introduction summarizes the conflict over the name of Macedonia and, after 28 years, the solution brokered through the Prespa Agreement. It also presents the relevance of porosity as a theoretical tool to understand the continuous permeability of crossing the border in different spatial/temporal configurations.

in Border porosities
Struggles against open-pit mines on the border
Rozita Dimova

This chapter analyzes recent protests and NGO activities against the open-pit gold and copper mines in the Valandovo–Bogdanci–Gevgelija and Halkidiki regions. In the most fertile region and the center of organic food production in the Republic of North Macedonia, the local population and environmental activists organized protests and four referendums, one of which was against the construction of an open-pit copper/gold mine where sulfuric acid and arsenic would be used to extract the metals. A similar open-pit gold mine was constructed on the Halkidiki peninsula in Greece, which prompted collaboration between eco-activists on both sides of the border. This is undeniably border porosity caused by transnational mining corporations and environmental activists opposing the corporate interests.

in Border porosities
From Ottoman railway lines to contemporary migrant transportation
Rozita Dimova

This chapter examines the effects of the construction in 1871 of the Thessaloniki–Mitrovica railway line that connected the Ottoman towns of Thessaloniki, Gevgelija, Veles, Skopje, Mitrovica, and, later on, Niš and Belgrade. This railway line played a crucial role in the connection and mobility of people, military equipment, food, and other commodities. This vuggy or elongated porosity was the main factor facilitating the modernization of this area, which continued to generate subsequent concentric or moldic porosities with the opening of further railway lines. The analysis begins with the construction and the completion of this main line. Its history tells a story of the last decades of Ottoman rule, as well as the final defeat of the Ottomans during World War One. The socialist period also enabled strong porosity by linking Yugoslavia with Athens to the south, and northwards with Munich and points further to the north, putting Gevgelija and its train station on the map for many travelers. With the dissolution of Yugoslavia, the train services became, at best, less reliable, but were nonetheless crucial for the transfer of migrants in 2015-16. The current disruption of the train service between Thessaloniki–Gevgelija, where passengers cross the border by bus, is the first instance since the line’s opening in 1879 of services not being open to people on both sides of the border.

in Border porosities