‘Global Body Transfer’
I was struck by two separate items in the NYT on successive days earlier this week involving the return of the bodies of dead immigrants to their homelands. Both were tragic stories, one involving a Mexican pizza delivery person shot in Greenwich Village, the other a family of Malians who died in a home fire in the Bronx. But I suspect that such “repatriations” are dramatically on the rise in non-newsworthy cases as well. Many funeral services outfits offer “worldwide transport”, and in some cases it appears to be a substantial business (several Poles die each week in Ireland, for instance, and many end up going home, enough that Polish funeral directors are competing for the business).
I don’t know that there’s much in the way of law that’s implicated by this new transboundary flow. I’m sure the health aspects are seen to, and one hopes that states don’t deal with this under some cognate of immigration control (I assume, for instance, that someone can be legally admitted as a dead person into the United States where she couldn’t have entered as a live one). But it does add yet another dimension to diaspora identity. In the old days, immigrants in many cases couldn’t have held out too much hope of returning home alive and certainly not dead. Today, some are being buried in ancestral homelands they never visited. To the extent the ultimate repatriation becomes more routine, it may just be another new way in which diasporic communities can sustain themselves.