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Cleaning For The Dead: The Chagossian Pilgrimageto Their Homeland

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses the Chagos islanders' first communal visit to the Chagos archipelago. From an anthropological perspective this journey provides an exceptional vantage point to explore important cultural dimensions of the Chagossian community and their political struggles for proper compensation and the right to repatriation. The chapter presents the central activities undertaken by the pilgrims in the course of the journey. Special attention will be paid to the considerable efforts Chagossians vested in cleaning and tending to abandoned cemeteries on the Chagos islands. The final section of this chapter shows that Chagossians hold quite specific cultural beliefs regarding their relationship to their homeland, although certain aspects have taken on new importance in the context of their contemporary social and political circumstances. Chagossians feel they have filial duties to assist the spirits of their forefathers, their expulsion from the place the ancestors were buried has resulted in a cultural dilemma.

Keywords: Chagos archipelago; Chagossian; cultural dimensions; political circumstances



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