Necrogeography matters: the powers of governing Indian and Chinese dead and their bodily remains in Great Britain, 1812-2012
Jassal, Lakhbir Kaur
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This thesis explores the historical and contemporary cultural politics of funeral and body disposal among Indian and Chinese residents of Great Britain. The sanitation episteme launched in Britain during the eighteenth-century resulted in new systems for governing things deemed to be polluting or a threat to human health. This included the corpse/dead body and its bodily remains governed by an all-embracing state technique that I call ‘necropower’. Inspired by a Foucauldian approach to biopower, I examine how the governing of the dead is implicated in the formation of state power over non-Abrahamic ethnic groups. More specifically, in this thesis I analyze how the funeral and disposal practices of two ethnic minorities in the UK have been and are governed by the contours of state necropower. I argue that these bodies became the quintessential matter out of place in a state-regulated episteme. Beginning with funerary practices they have historically been deemed polluted and subject to state-based sanitary order, and they have emerged today through a new environmental and sanitary episteme inside a necroregime of power that is mediated by industry professionals. Drawing upon documented historical and contemporary material from the nineteenth to twenty-first century, interviews with state officials, professionals from the Death Care Industry, and Indian and Chinese minorities in Great Britain, I elaborate the various ways that these minorities seek to respond to, negotiate, and avoid expectations and regulations with respect to body and remain disposal.