Burying Jihadis

Bodies Between State, Territory, and Identity

Part of the CERI/Sciences Po. series
August 2018 9781849048859 288pp


What should states do with the bodies of suicide bombers and other jihadists who die while perpetrating terrorist attacks? This original and unsettling book explores the host of ethical and political questions raised by this dilemma, from (non-)legitimisation of the ‘enemy’ and their cause to the non-territorial identity of individuals who identified in life with a global community of believers.

Because states do not recognise suicide bombers as enemy combatants, governments must decide individually what to do with their remains. Riva Kastoryano offers a window onto this challenging predicament through the responses of the American, Spanish, British and French governments after the Al-Qaeda suicide attacks in New York, Madrid and London, and Islamic State’s attacks on Paris in 2015. Interviewing officials, religious and local leaders and jihadists’ families, both in their countries of origin and in the target nations, she has traced the terrorists’ travel history, discovering unexpected connections between their itineraries and the handling of their burials.

This fascinating book reveals how states’ approaches to a seemingly practical issue are closely shaped by territory, culture, globalisation and identity.


‘Burying Jihadis sheds light on the relationship of the body to the state and globalization by exploring the burial of jihadis. … Readers interested in terrorism and transnationalism as well globalization will find this a helpful and thoughtful study.’ — Terrorism and Political Violence

‘Cogent and clearly written, this excellent book will find an honoured place in the growing body of literature on global jihadism.’ — John Calvert, Professor and Chair of History, Creighton University, and author of Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism

‘Most studies of Islamic militancy and suicide bombing tend to approach these issues in highly conventional and straightforward ways. This book gains a great deal in nuance and insight by doing exactly the opposite. It examines some of the most important questions of our time in fascinating yet concrete detail.’ — Faisal Devji, Fellow of St. Antony’s College, Oxford and author of Landscapes of the Jihad

‘In the study of Islamist radicalism, this rare but important analysis of the burials of those who die through their acts of terrorism, in what are often their places of birth, provides an insightful focus on the role of states in determining the ambiguities of identity, space and final resting place.’ — Tahir Abbas, Visiting Senior Fellow in the Department of Government, LSE, and editor of Muslim Diasporas in the West

‘Riva Kastoryano shows that the challenge of burying jihadis, which might seem incidental or a purely legal question, is in fact a profoundly political one. …. her analysis sheds new light on the links between the nation-state and globalisation, of which terrorism is simply one product among many.’ — La Vie des idées

‘Political scientist and sociologist Riva Kastoryano raises seldom pondered questions. … Her study goes to the heart of how we do or don’t honour the dead: the recognition or denial of their citizenship and their religious identity, the endurance or suppression of their memory, their ties to  the land where they are buried, and the state’s power to intervene in this private matter. … Her work deserves a readership.’ — Sciences Humaines magazine


Riva Kastoryano is CNRS Research Director and Professor at Sciences Po Paris. She is the author of, inter alia, Negotiating Identities: States and Immigrants in France and Germany.

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