Burial, Reburial, and the Securing of Memory


Drawing on the purported relationship between trauma and the desire to generate collective identity, this paper uses the framing of ontological security to examine burial as a mechanism of memorialization. I argue that states often turn to dead body management as a means of securing themselves and their identities. Burial and reburial can function as a mechanism of governance by states seeking ontological security. What happens to the dead is often politically contested. Because of this, states seek to intervene in contested spaces to solidify their identities through the mechanism of dead body management. I consider burial as a mechanism of state identity construction. Because graves, particularly mass graves, are sites where questions of human dignity are explored, they are also productive sites of examination of the logic of memorialization governing political violence. As a result, I seek to examine the processes by which gravesites and burial and reburial become mechanisms of the state performing ontological security.

Keywords: death, Rwanda, mass graves, burial, ontological security


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