"Charlie Hebdo" And The Politics Of Mourning

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Contemporary French Civilization


This article explores the different forms of mourning that structured the public and political memorialization of the victims and perpetrators of the Paris attacks by analyzing the discourses, ceremonies, and negotiations accompanying their funerals. It argues that political actors employed three distinct strategies of mourning to produce a hierarchy of French subjects organized around a spectrum of grievability. The first strategy, “mourning as erasure,” was characteristic of the funerals of the three terrorists and evinced an active effort by the French state to efface any trace of their memory. The second, “mourning as exclusionary-inclusion,” was exemplified in the ceremonies held in honor of Ahmed Merabet, a police officer mourned as a loyal guardian of the French Republic in terms that maintained his subordinate status as a religious outsider. The third strategy, “mourning as appropriation,” was most pronounced at the funerals of the four victims of the attack on the kosher supermarket Hyper Cacher. Held in Israel, these ceremonies offered an emotional platform for both French and Israeli leaders to claim the Jewish victims as their own. These disparate strategies of mourning highlight the different ways that the dead help demarcate the boundaries of political communities.