Doctoral student Christina Palivos (Yale University), with the guidance of Dr. M. Kamari Clarke, will undertake research on secularism, the state, and migration. As migrants with particular religious orientations move into secular and semi-secular democracies, they pose unanticipated challenges for both the theory and practice of modern state governance, as evidenced by the head scarf debate in France. Palivos will focus her research on the problems of burial of migrant Muslims who die while moving through Greece on their way to various destinations in Europe. In the past decade, the Evros River and the Aegean Sea along the eastern borders of Greece have become the main points of entry for approximately 90 per cent of migrants en route to Europe from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Central Asia; many of them are Muslim. As the number of people crossing these bodies of water has grown, so has the number who die along the way, making Greece an excellent site to explore these issues.
Palivos will undertake eighteen months of ethnographic research amongst Muslim immigrants in three Greek locations: Athens, Lesvos, and Alexandroupolis. She will gather data on the different treatments that Muslim dead receive in Greece, including repatriation of remains to the country of origin, relocation of remains from to Thrace (the only Greek site with Muslim cemetaries), and local burial of unidentified remains in unmarked graves. Research methods will include participant observation, semi-structured interviews, burial case studies, repatriation case studies, and archival research.
This research is important because it will contribute to social scientific understanding of how the current economic crisis and attendant migration are together changing what it means to be a modern state subject. Her research also will fill gaps in what is known about the circulation of dead bodies within and across national borders and contribute to the ethnography of contemporary Greece. Supporting this research also supports the education of a graduate student.
is a 26-month ethnographic project, the first phase of which took place in Athens, Greece from April 2013-January 2014. The main goal of the research was to understand what happens to the remains of dead "Muslim migrants" in Greece, a country without a burial place for Muslims that, in 2010, became the point of entry for 90% of migrants en route to Europe from the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central Asia? During the first phase, the researcher conducted interviews with Muslim migrants from the Pakistani, Afghani, Nigerian, and Sudanese communities in Athens, Greece in order to learn about the ways in which people repatriate human remains. The researcher learned that although there are variations in available resources to facilitate repatriation, the vast majority of those interviewed demonstrated a preference for repatriation rather than local burial. Several issues involved in repatriating remains were noted, such as missing personal documents (passport, ID, birth certificate, etc.) that are necessary to move a corpse across national borders, the indelicate or mistreatment of bodies by hospital and funeral home staff during the preparation of the corpse for travel, and the lack of sensitivity regarding cultural needs concerning the treatment of female bodies (remaining uncovered, handled by men, for example). Although finding the means to transport remains back to the country of origin was a major concern, the most immediate need for most of the immigrants with whom the researcher spoke emphasized their anxieties over surviving through the current economic conditions and/or trying to find ways to leave Greece altogether. Upon completion of the first ten months of the 26-month project, the researcher has explored the experiences of Muslim migrants as they manage the movement of human remains across transnational borders. This study weaves together political and economic anthropology and perspectives from international relations and international political economy to identify the ways in which broader neoliberal values and practices are embodied, contested, and/or transformed in rapidly changing social contexts, such as contemporary Greece. Exploring notions of affect, morality, and subjectivity, this study explores the realities of austerity beyond sweeping political demands for sacrifice and humanitarian depictions of suffering by showing the ways people face, make sense of, and adapt to moral contradictions in the context of rapid social change. This research also promises to make a significant contribution to the migration studies, European studies, Islamic Studies, and Modern Greek Studies due to its topic and method. It may also contribute to the body of growing interdisciplinary scholarship in Hate Crime Studies as it analyzes the mistreatment of human remains as a form of hate crime, a growing concern with the alarm rise of extremism in Greece and throughout the European Union.