DEAD ON ARRIVAL
I tell the story of the death of two women in a neighborhood of urban renewal in Ethiopia’s capital city. One ethnographic encounter explores the life of an elderly woman, Hosana, who lived all her life in the neighborhood of Arat Kilo. She witnessed the rise and fall of the Ethiopian empire, the Italian occupation, the Socialist Derg rule, and the EPRDF government. Her life was extraordinarily long, yet residents have described her death as entangled with the social death of their lived-in environment. The other story is of Rahel. She left Arat Kilo in 2006 as a twenty-year-old young woman to work as an undocumented domestic migrant laborer in Beirut. After she had a stroke, she became paralyzed and died in the same year in 2016. Her attempts of trying to return when she fell ill failed. Even once dead, her body was not easily brought back home. Stuck in Beirut because of faulty documentation, and then at customs in Addis Ababa, her body began to decompose. I describe the disposability and expendability these gendered and racialized bodies were subjected to and how the neighborhood organized the funeral and mourned not only the death of these individuals, but the vanishing of the neighborhood, yet to be evicted. By this, this paper urges to pay attention to surplus, remainders of disembodied territories, what refuses to disappear.
Sabine Mohamed is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Heidelberg and at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. She is an incoming Bridge to Faculty Post-doctoral Fellow at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her doctoral research project, entitled Losing Ground: Emergent Black Empire and Counter-Futures in Urbanizing Ethiopia, ethnographically explores how categories of blackness and race, as well as experiences of urban and national dispossession are attached to an infrastructure of emergent empire in East Africa.