Lethal Borders

Moralities of violent death  in the Spanish-Moroccan borderlands

Gerhild Perl

Death at EU’s borders is not a new phenomenon; rather it has ebbed and flowed over decades. This project illuminates this continuity through the case of a shipwreck in Spain in 2003 and further investigates how responsibility for these deaths is negotiated. The question of responsibility is enigmatic. People who die at the border are usually not killed by anyone, they are not at war, and they are not victims of a natural catastrophe – and yet, they die a violent death. Neither the discourses of the media and politicians, that hold human traffickers responsible, nor of academics and activists, that call the “border regime” or “fortress Europe” to account, provide satisfying answers. To obtain a broader understanding of the moralities of violent death at the border, this project asks how anthropological considerations of moral responsibility help us to understand the entanglement of the present or absent materiality of dead bodies, the affects which they evoke for local and distant people, and the political actions they trigger.


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