Mourning the Un-Mournable? Political Theology between Refugees and Religion

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Since the arrival, or the attempted arrival, of millions of refugees in Europe, the performances of the Center for Political Beauty–a Berlin-based collective of artists and activists–have had a huge impact on public and political debates about Germany's migration policies. In this paper, I analyze the performance “The Dead Are Coming” in which the artists buried refugees who drowned in their attempt to enter the European Union. Drawing on Judith Butler's political philosophy of performativity, I assess “The Dead Are Coming” as a “doing” rather than a “describing” of dignity. I argue that the integration of God into the practices of mourning enables both the activists and the audience to resist the differential distribution of dignity in Europe's migration policy. Ultimately, I advocate a re-thinking of political theology in which art learns from theology and theology learns from art in order to promote dignity under de-dignifying conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-627
JournalPolitical Theology
Issue number7
Early online date23 Feb 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Europe
  • John D. Caputo
  • Judith Butler
  • migration crisis
  • performance
  • politics
  • vulnerability


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