Between Civil Society And The State: Bureaucratic Competence And Cultural Mediation Among Muslim Undertakers In Berlin

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Journal Of Intercultural Studies


This article explores the intercultural negotiations around the death and burial of Muslims in Germany. In particular, it examines the mediating role that Muslim undertakers play between immigrant families and the German state. Drawing on an ethnographic study of Turkish funeral homes and the Islamic funeral industry in Berlin, it argues that undertakers’ ability to navigate the regulatory structures of the German bureaucracy and the cultural expectations of their customers is a defining feature of their occupational identity and a principal source of their professional authority. As intermediaries between civil society and the state, undertakers guide families through the cultural, religious, political, and legal landscapes that structure the transitions from life to death. In burying the dead and tending to the living, they must reconcile competing sets of administrative and cultural norms surrounding death and interment. In doing so, the Muslim undertakers of Berlin preside not only over end-of-life decisions and their theological implications, but also over pedagogical moments in processes of political and cultural integration in contemporary Germany.


Migration, undertakers and undertaking, Islamic funerary services, intercultural encounter, Muslims in Germany, Berlin, Necropolitics