Contemporary French Civilization

Charlie Hebdo and the politics of mourning

Contemporary French Civilization (2016), 41, (2), 253–271.

Abstract

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.

Cet article examine les différents modes de deuil qui structurent la commémoration publique et politique des victimes et des responsables des attentats de Paris en analysant les discours, les cérémonies, et les négociations concernant leurs funérailles. Cet article affirme que les acteurs politiques emploient trois stratégies différentes de deuil pour créer une hiérarchie de sujets français organisée autour d’un éventail de modes et de degrés de deuil. La première stratégie, “le deuil d’effacement,” fût caractéristique des funérailles des trois terroristes et fit preuve d’un effort actif de l’État français d’effacer toute trace de leur mémoire. La deuxième stratégie, “le deuil d’exclusion-inclusion,” fût illustrée par les cérémonies en mémoire d’Ahmed Merabet, un policier pleuré pour avoir loyalement protégé la république Française, mais en des termes qui servirent à maintenir sa position subordonnée en fonction de son appartenance religieuse. La troisième stratégie, “le deuil d’appropriation,” fût surtout notable lors des funérailles des quatre victimes de l’attaque du supermarché Hyper Cacher. Ces cérémonies, tenues en Israël, furent utilisées par les personnalités françaises et israéliennes pour revendiquer les victimes Juives comme les leurs. Ces stratégies de deuil distinctes montrent les différentes façons dont les morts participent à la production des frontières qui démarquent les communautés politiques.

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Balkan, Osman