Abhorrent Anomalies: Unknowability in Refugee and Migrant Disappearances and Border Deaths

Activity: Talk or presentationConference presentation


Drawing on years of work with refugees and migrants and, more recently, with refugee and migrant disappearances and border deaths, this paper explores the ways in which those gone, as well as those disappeared, are still embedded in various familial, societal, and cultural networks. Looking at these networks, I highlight how refugee and migrant absences and disappearances engender especially two kinds of anomalies. On the one hand, there is an anomaly brought about by familial and cultural networks. Those who have disappeared (or thought to have been disappeared) cannot be incorporated into any preconfigured, everyday social categories or roles. In such conditions, mourning, remembering, and caring require new relations to be forged. On the other hand, those disappeared, lingering between life and death, are equally anomalous vis-à-vis state functions and bureaucracies. They are, in some respects, non-governable, but simultaneously allow for new relations of power to emerge; those of abandonment and denial. The abhorrence of refugee and migrant disappearances and, relatedly, border deaths is brought about by the fact that such disappearances and absences are, by their nature, violent. They may result from, and display, state violence, but more crucially they represent the violent rupture in knowability and certainty. This violent liminality forces new ways to relate to come about—in interpersonal relations, moralities, and governance.
Period23 Mar 2023
Event titleThe Biennal Conference of the Finnish Anthropological Society 2023: Relations and beyond
Event typeConference
LocationRovaniemi, FinlandShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational

Country of activity

  • Finland

Nature of activity

  • Scientific