Keep the Bones Alive: Missing People and the Search for Life in Brazil
Forthcoming with the University of California Press in 2022
Every year at least 20,000 people go missing in São Paulo, Brazil. Many will be found, sometimes in mundane mass graves, but thousands are not. Keep the Bones Alive explores this phenomenon and why there is little concern for those who vanish. Ethnographer Graham Denyer Willis works beside family members, state workers, and gravediggers to examine the rationalization behind why bodies are missing in space, including cemeteries, the criminal coroner’s office, and prisons. By following the bereaved as they confront an indifferent state and suspicious society and search for loved ones against all odds, this gripping book reveals where missing bodies go and the reasons why people can disappear without being pursued. Recognizing that disappearance has long been central to Brazil’s everyday political order, with some people pursued and others not, this humanistic account of the silences surrounding disappearance shows why a demand for a politics of life is needed more than ever.
At left: Débora, with an image of her son, Kaio, who has been missing since 2013.