Title: Ancestrality, Death and Expendable Youth in Urban Congo
Authors: De Boeck, Filip
Issue Date: 14-Mar-2014
Conference: Death on the Move:Managing narratives and constraints in transnational settings edition:1 location:Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas, Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH-UNL) date:13-14 March, 2014
Abstract: In Kinshasa, the DRCongo's capital, the fathers and uncles of the deceased are the ones normally in charge of the funeral. In recent years, however, the city has witnessed a powerful reversal of these norms and rules: increasingly, children and youngsters are taking over the control of the mourning and burial rituals. This is especially true when a young person dies -and given the city's demographics (75 % of the city's 9 million inhabitants is under the age of 25)- this has become the rule rather than the exception. The death of a young person triggers a lot of anger and rebellious sentiments amongst age-mates. This anger is directed at older generations. The parents and elders of the deceased will be the first ones to be blamed for this death. In such a case, youngsters will invade the scene, single out fathers and uncles and accuse them of witchcraft. Often, such accusations lead to violent attacks. The elders are chased from the site of mourning, while the young people of the neighbourhood take over the control of the funeral and confiscate the corpse to perform the burial themselves. As a result, families totally lose the control over the burial of their young relative. In this way, for Kinshasa's youngsters, the cemetery has become the site of an intergenerational battlefield. The very corpses of the deceased have turned into political platforms from which they shout their criticisms directed at parents, elders, but also politicians, priests and other authority figures. These, the young seem to say, have not lived up to their promises, they have forsaken their responsibilities and sacrificed the younger generations. Violent as their protest may seem, the political and moral criticisms voiced by this poor urban youth are not expressions of nihilism. They do not, like some exotic version of the Punks of the 1970s shout: No More Future. They actually try to convey the contrary: their right to a possible future. Unchanneled, raw, not recuperated by the state or the church, these urban youngsters' often violent songs and unruly dances highlight their ongoing efforts at reconceptualising the use of public urban space, the meaning of the public sphere, or the content of citizenship.
Description: Convenors: Clara Saraiva, Irene Rodrigues, Simone Frangella, Max Ramos
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa

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