Graham Denyer Willis

Nov 3, 2023

Keep the Bones Alive

Missing People and the Search for Life in Brazil

University of California Press 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 will not. Keep the Bones Alive: Missing People and the Search for Life in Brazil (U California Press, 2022) 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--from cemeteries, the criminal coroner's office, prisons, and elsewhere. By accompanying the bereaved as they confront an indifferent state and a 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, this humanistic account of the silences surrounding disappearance shows why a demand for a politics of life is needed now more than ever.

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Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.

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