Roadside corpses in Nigeria: social anonymity, public morality, and (in)dignity of the human body
In Nigeria, it is quite common to see human corpses decomposing by the roadside. Existing scholarly comments have emphasised the aspect of state failure implicated in the phenomenon. However, based on observation, analysis of media reports, and informal discussions, this paper identifies some of the cultural factors that deny roadside corpses the basic honour of burial. Firstly, corpses that decay by the roadside are usually disconnected from the network of kin relations, thereby provoking meaning about space and social signification of the human body. Secondly, the low social status often ascribed to these corpses points towards an idea of the human body as a possible site for enactment of social inequality. Thirdly, public indifference to roadside corpses is explained in terms of contrasting public moralities, neoliberal ideals of self-contained individual, a resentment of the police intertwined with a complicated criminal justice system, and a cultural attitude towards strange entities.