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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Jose Alavez, Geography, Urban and Environmental Studies

If I die far from you: mapping grief and loss in the context of migration

Date & time
Tuesday, August 23, 2022
9 a.m. – 11 a.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room 1269-3

Wheel chair accessible


When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


The death of a loved one is one of the most challenging episodes in a person's life. This experience becomes even more complicated when someone dies in the context of migration. Beyond the emotional shock, family members and friends might have to hold posthumous ceremonies at a distance, organize the corpse's repatriation, and deal with their own need to grieve from far away. In this research, I aim to shed light on the potential of mapping for revealing these intimate and heterogenous posthumous geographies. To do so, I have deployed three different cartographic strategies to map the stories of eight migrants. First, I designed a series of narrative maps to focus on postmortem mobilities. These maps reveal that the movement of bodies continues to be influenced by emotional and economic decisions after death. They also display the local and global networks of communication and support triggered by the demise of a migrant. Second, I mobilized two mapping approaches dedicated to charting the personal and the emotional (i.e., inductive visualization and sensibility mapping) to represent the very intimate moments associated with the experience of death in the context of migration. Finally, I introduce the concept of mapping-ofrenda as a form of mourning and remembering. This third project emphasizes the value of the mapping process and the opportunity it offers to turn memories into maps. It also illustrates the importance to reconnect with the past and with relatives from afar. As a whole, this thesis establishes postmortem cartographies of mobilities, grief, memory, emotions, and solidarity as essential components of the geographies of death in migratory contexts.

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