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‘To be human is to bury the enemy dead’: migrant deaths, posthumous citizenship, and the ‘soldier-migrant analogy’ in the refugee crisis

Mavelli, Luca, Zambernardi, Lorenzo (2024) ‘To be human is to bury the enemy dead’: migrant deaths, posthumous citizenship, and the ‘soldier-migrant analogy’ in the refugee crisis. Citizenship Studies, . pp. 1-16. ISSN 1362-1025. E-ISSN 1469-3593. (doi:10.1080/13621025.2024.2341718) (KAR id:105829)


While states increasingly govern migration through the administration and distribution of death, they occasionally invest considerable resources in recovering, identifying, and burying dead migrants. How to explain this paradox? A forceful argument in the critical scholarship on migration and citizenship maintains that death sometimes compels states to acknowledge the humanity of the migrants and grant them some degree of posthumous citizenship. In this article, we advance a view that is both different and complementary. We suggest that burying dead migrants is a way for the state and its host population to affirm and celebrate their own humanity. This perspective rests on three arguments: to be human is to bury; the ultimate act of humanity is not burying the loved ones but the enemies; burying dead migrants can be compared to burying dead enemy soldiers. The article sheds further light on the still underexplored phenomenon of ‘caring for dead migrants’ and assesses how these practices of care challenge but also reinforce dominant exclusionary understandings of citizenship.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/13621025.2024.2341718
Uncontrolled keywords: migrant deaths; humanity; burials; citizenship; soldiers; war
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: University of Kent (
SWORD Depositor: JISC Publications Router
Depositing User: JISC Publications Router
Date Deposited: 03 May 2024 14:06 UTC
Last Modified: 07 May 2024 15:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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