A partnership between The Centre for Popular Culture in the Humanities (The Education University of Hong Kong), EMMA (University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3) and La Maison Française d’Oxford.

Venue: University Paul Valery Montpellier 3, France

Dates: September 29 – October 2, 2021

Language: English

Deadline for submitting proposals: 15 June 2021

Notification of acceptance: 15 July 2021


Project co-convenors:

Dr Bidisha Banerjee, Centre for Popular Culture in the Humanities, the Education U. of Hong Kong

Dr Thomas Lacroix, La Maison Française d’Oxford

Dr Judith Misrahi-Barak, EMMA, University Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3

Thanatic Ethics: The Circulation of Bodies in Migratory Spaces, began with a single question: What happens to the bodies of migrants who perish on foreign shores, often while making perilous journeys across land and sea in search of better lives?

In migratory and diasporic contexts, one often witnesses the desire to be buried in the home country. A home burial encapsulates a widely shared perception of home shared among emigrants, immigrants and migrants. Death imbues the meaning of home and therefore the meaning of what it is to live away from the native country. The place of departure is often erected as a place of moral centrality (Lacroix 2018). It underpins the relations with those who stayed and who hide their fascination for foreign lands behind their accusations of selfishness, oblivion and the moral dubiousness of emigrants imbued with western values (Carling 2008). And yet, despite this willingness to be buried in the homeland, the life course of immigrants can take unanticipated trajectories. As emigrants grow old, the links with the left-behind dwindle. For various reasons, burial in the place of settlement becomes an option and then a reality (see the Muslim quarters in European cemeteries for instance, Lestage 2012).

The migration crisis in the recent years has modified our perspective on the deaths in migration, at sea or on land. Recent works have sought to quantify the number of casualties (Heller and Pécoud 2017; Sapkota et al. 2006). Others strive to retrieve the identity of these people in the thin traces they left behind (Kobelinsky and Le Courant 2017; Cattaneo 2018). And when nothing material is left, what endures is the memory of tragic wrecking, commemorated by plaques, monuments or art pieces, in the wake of earlier dumping of bodies overboard in colonial and slavery contexts.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has added another dimension to the question of migrant deaths and repatriation with the disastrous prospect of outbreaks in overcrowded refugee camps and detention centres. The pandemic has also resulted in massive internal migrations and the current global crisis caused by Covid-19 makes the thanatic approach in migration studies a particularly timely one.

Literature, film and visual art is replete with discussions of thanatic themes, raising questions about the political, social and emotional impacts of such acts on communities as well as individuals. Though questions of the circulation and repatriation of migrant bodies can be found as far back as oral literature and folktales, “Thanatic Ethics” hopes to fill a lacuna and seeks to increase the critical attention to this aspect of migration across the disciplines.

The description of the Project can be found online:



After several Webinars and a Workshop online (October 2020 to April 2021), this transnational and transdisciplinary project is now seeking papers for Workshop #2, aiming at increasing the focus on specific themes.

Proposals should be related though not limited to the following themes:

Questions of body repatriation / Practices and representations / temporality

The politics and aesthetics of the representation of deaths in migration

Making visible the invisible / the role of art(s) and literature

Thanatic ethics and gender

Funeral and mourning practices / the (im-)materiality of the body and its politics

The temporality of death vs the temporality of repatriation

Bodies (dead and alive) migrating through spaces

The Nation, citizenship and the return of remains in migratory contexts

The impact of the pandemic

Questions related to the integrity of the body (organ trafficking for instance)

The individual and collective economics of repatriation

The impact of colonial history on repatriation

Grammar of thanatic spaces / the dead, the living and the survivors

Necropolitical divide between the dead and the living / the segregation of space

Human rights, social justice and migrant deaths

Necropolitical ecologies

Migrant deaths, humanitarianism and the politics of care

Comparative thanatics from a ‘multidirectional’ perspective / the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans

We invite contributors to send their proposals (a 250-­word abstract, title, author’s name, a 150-word bio, and contact information) to the conference email address: thanaticethics@gmail.com.

Each presentation will be 20 minutes (followed by discussion time). A selection of papers will be considered for publication.