Governance and Grieving: Disappearing Migrants and Emergent Politics (DiMig)

Thousands of people go missing every year, in armed conflicts, as victims of oppressive governments, in natural disasters and, to a growing extent, in migratory contexts. Disappearances always create great anxiety in families left behind. Moreover, they create problems for the smooth running of state bureaucracies. This project maps different situations where people go missing from their families and communities in migratory contexts, and the policies addressing the disappearances.

We have four empirical focuses in the project:1) disappearances of undocumented migrants in the Mediterranean 2) disappearances of EU citizens while migrating within the EU 3) disappearing European tourists outside of the EU 4) the emerging global field of actors and policy-makers addressing the issue of missing persons or forced disappearances. Together, the variety of empirical cases shed light on the contours of the ‘recognizabity’ and ‘grievability’ (Butler 2009) of certain lives under the conditions of modern global structures of politics, policies and governance.

Our main research questions are: How are disappearing mobile people recognized, conceptualized and politicized by different agents, including states, inter-governmental organizations, various grassroots organization as well as the families of the missing? What are the hierarchies of ‘grievability’ of various missing? How do the family members of missing persons negotiate with and navigate around state bureaucracies, organizational practices and official procedures?

The project relies on ethnographic approach, combining participant observation, in-depth interviews (families, policy makers, organizations) and the analysis of policy documents. The aim is to map empirically the variety of ways of conceptualizing disappearances and the political responses to them, as well as the effects of the policy projects both in the lives of the families of the missing and more widely in communities affected. At the same time, the project will develop a theoretical understanding of a ‘missing person’ as an indicator of modern projects of governance, personhood and connectivity.

The researchers of the team are:

Prof. Laura Huttunen

Dr. Dos. Mari Korpela

Dr. Anna Matyska

M. Soc. Ville Laakkonen

M. Soc. Saila Kivilahti

Research assistant, M. Soc. Dimitri Ollikainen