Repatriationscapes: death and repatriation of human remains among African diaspora. A study into selected cases in London (UK)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Social and Policy Sciences


Research Context

Most contemporary studies on death, bereavement, grief, and loss have approached the topics from diverse Western and Eurocentric perspectives. Afrocentric perspectives have been ignored. As a result, there is a knowledge gap in the existing literature creating some ambiguity on death matters among minority migrant populations in the UK.

My PhD project is designed to explore death and repatriation of human remains among African diaspora in the UK and how it is framed within the migration context. This project follows my MSc thesis into the repatriation of human remains as aspect of cultural belonging among the Gambian community in Newport South Wales. The findings were presented in a paper at the Death and Culture 111 conference at the University of York early September 2020.

Repatriationscapes is a theoretical term I use to refer to the framework for studying the process of body repatriation to the home country. The framework assumes that the migration context perpetuates a prism through which conceptual perspectives are interwoven but also separated in places across borders. The migration context of African diaspora in the UK is multi-dimensional and complex. Therefore, I consider migration with less focus on legal status of the participants.

My core claim is that body repatriation is a multi-layered form of ritual set in 'The Ritual Process'(Turner, 1969), descriptively, within the funerary rites of passage. My project focuses on individual cases in the collective into the recent dead. The African diaspora apply a "specific frame of reference" emanating from their conceptual perception of death both individually and collectively despite their diversity. Selected cases will be used to describe wider perspectives in repatriationscapes. However, African diasporic communities cannot be homogenized.


1. To investigate the contemporary sociological narratives on death and repatriation of human remains among African diaspora to establish how it is framed within migration context.

2. To understand the factors that may determine consolation trends during grief among African diaspora in the UK within diverse perspectives.


1. To establish how death is negotiated among African diaspora in the UK in contrast with how death is dealt within their countries of origin.

2. To contextualize how body repatriation represents the bereaved diaspora, the deceased, and the relations of the deceased in the home country.

3. To demonstrate how the conceptual understanding of death and repatriationscapes from diverse perspectives can challenge the tendencies of homogenization of African diaspora in the UK.

Applications and benefits

My study juxtaposes some concepts on the role of multi-cultural structures in shaping social and cultural attitudes within a dominant discourse in death and bereavement. This will contribute towards multi-disciplinary literature on global migration which might challenge homogenization of African diaspora. Participants will articulate how their interconnectedness transcends the assumed barriers in repatriationscapes to reiterate their identity and cultural belonging. Also, prompting academic interest into transnational cross-border scholarship in repatriationscapes.

Difficult Language Training:
Death rituals are more likely to be set and performed in tribal languages in the native countries. I will need training to improve my basic Kiswahili language for field work in Tanzania.

Overseas Fieldwork:

Body repatriation spreads the location of study over to the home country. I hope to travel overseas to conduct field work. The UK diaspora associations will offer guidance through consultation and networking.

Overseas Institutional Visits

I hope to undertake overseas institutional visits for networking, creating platform for my research dissemination in collaboration with other death scholars.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2381089 Studentship ES/P000630/1 28/09/2020 27/09/2024 George Gumisiriza