Caring for the Dead Corpse Washers, Touch, and Mourning in Contemporary Turkey

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Abstract

In Sunni Muslim funerals in Turkey, the state, religious actors, and members of kin and family hold the obligations and rights to the deceased, such as washing, shrouding, burying, and praying for the dead body, which the author characterizes as care for the dead. The practices of care represent the deceased body in strictly gendered ways. For instance, the coffin design, the prayers at the mosque, the washing ritual prior to burial, and the rites of inhumation are different for women and men. This article examines the intimate economies of touch that take place while preparing the deceased body for a religious afterlife. Touch, in the form of washing, kissing, and caressing the deceased by family members, is central to showing the last deeds and bidding farewell to the lost one. However, past cases demonstrate that when the deceased is a trans person, corpse washers and family members may refuse to touch the body of the deceased during the washing ritual. Theorizing touch as an essential care work for the dead, the author discusses the limits of gendered and sexual belonging in the practices and discourses of mourning and grief in Turkey.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)350-370
Number of pages21
JournalMeridians
Volume21
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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