Rites and rights in death: contemporary management of the repatriation of African human remains
Migration management generally concerns itself with theoretical explanations and practical solutions for living migrants and migration situations. To “end” the migration cycle, suggested solutions range from high border walls to deter economic migrants to post-conflict voluntary repatriation of refugees. What “end” solutions, however, are available for the bodies of migrants who die while outside their native country? Who asserts agency, how, and to what end? This paper will explore the phenomenon of international human remains repatriation and the agents active within the process. With the use of two highly debated historical cases of repatriated African bodies (Sarah Baartman and “El Negro”), this paper will examine the way in which the themes within specialised, historical repatriations and contemporary repatriations of deceased African migrants from the city of Johannesburg can be used to reflect upon each other. With this focus on post-mortem repatriation, this paper aims to uncover some of the practical concerns and key theories that govern the prioritisation, negotiation and finalisation of a resting place for migrants in Africa.