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Middle East Studies

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Necropenology: Conquering New Bodies, Psyches, and Territories in East Jerusalem

In theorizing penal politics this article investigates the marking of the colonized through an analysis of state violence over dead bodies. Delving into and describing the political scene in which the state—through its courts, law, military, and police—leaves dead bodies bleeding after death, withholding them in carceral refrigerators, and tortures their communities after death, uncovers what I define as necropenology. Built on the voices of Jerusalemite families whose children were imprisoned in Israeli refrigerators after death, this paper argues that expanding spaces of carcerality, criminalizing those who are already dead, and penetrating Palestinian spaces of mourning, offers new modes of penology, a necropenology that conquers new bodies, psychics and territories. Necropenology refers to the operations involved in violating the sanctity of the body during death, the treatment of the dead flesh, and the ordeals of the Palestinian community when encountering necropenology, as captive in life and in death. Necropenology is the performance of power that marks both dead and living bodies as disposable in times of death. It aims at stripping control over one’s own emotions, inscribing indignities, and keeping the colonized as dangerous entities, always on trial in death and when dead.


Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a Palestinian feminist activist and the Chair in Global Law at Queen Mary University of London.

Her research focuses on law, society and crimes of abuse of power. She studies the crime of femicide and other forms of gendered violence, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitization and social control, and children, settler colonialism, trauma and recovery in militarized and colonized zones. Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s previous book is entitled: “Militarization and Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East: The Palestinian Case Study” published by Cambridge University Press, 2010. Her newly published book is entitled: “Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear”, published by Cambridge University Press, 2015. Shalhoub-Kevorkian is currently finishing a new book manuscript entitled: "Incarcerated Childhood and the Politics of Unchilding” that will be published by Cambridge University Press, 2019.

She has published articles in multi-disciplinary fields including British Journal of Criminology, International Review of Victimology, Feminism and Psychology, Middle East Law and Governance, International Journal of Lifelong Education, American Behavioral Scientist Journal, Social Service Review, Violence Against Women, Journal of Feminist Family Therapy: An International Forum, Social Identities, Social Science and Medicine, Signs, Law & Society Review, International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies. and more. As a resident of the old city of Jerusalem, Shalhoub-Kevorkian is a prominent local activist. She engages in direct actions and critical dialogue to end the inscription of power over Palestinian children’s lives, spaces of death, and women’s birthing bodies and lives.

Keywords: necropenology, torturing the dead, refrigerated deceased bodies, settler colonialism, mourning, treatment of the dead flesh, captive dead body