ASA2016: Footprints and futures: the time of anthropology

(P28)
Footprints and futures of ethnographies on sexual violence during conflict
Location Science Site/Engineering E005
Date and Start Time 06 July, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Nayanika Mookherjee (Durham University) email

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Short Abstract

This panel explores the politics of documenting experiences of sexual violence during conflict situations. Through the perspective of historical and political anthropology it critically addresses the use of collective memory and the imbrication of 'agency' with time in these 'testimonial cultures.'

Long Abstract

This panel seeks to examine the processes through which sexual violence during conflicts is documented, in the context of post-conflict reparative work, performed at individual and collective levels, through the configurations in kinship, politics, time, memory and law. The panel seeks to move beyond 'the dominant and limited lens of silence, voice, shame, honour, gender, patriarchy, stigma, and ostracisation through which sexual violence is commonly understood. These categories also ensure a self-evident givenness and familiar comprehension about sexual violence enabling in the process a narrative closure' (Mookherjee 2015). Through the documentation of rape testimonies, experts acquire a narrative license to give 'voice', 'break the silence' and give 'agency' to the survivors which would apparently enable closure of their violent past and heal their futures. The panel seeks to map how bereft of historical political-economic contextualization, the prevalent understandings of sexual violence in post-conflict settings may veil past and present relations of power and powerlessness through the hierarchies of race, class, gender/sexuality, generations, religion, professions and visual economies which enables the framing of the raped. Instead the panel suggests new ways of thinking about sexual violence during conflict following recent ethnographies to interrogate how 'the everyday forms the future horizon' (Mulla 2014:30) in instances of sexual violence.

Mookherjee, Nayanika 2015. The Spectral Wound. Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971. Foreword by Veena Das. Duke UP.

Mulla, Sameena. 2014. The Violence of Care: Rape Victims, Forensic Nurses and Sexual Assault Intervention. NY: NYU Press.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Sexual violence and conflct: time, renarration and geopolitics

Author: Nayanika Mookherjee (Durham University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper seeks to explore how the current focus on sexual violence and conflict is linked to geopolitical concerns. It argues that this is primarily highlighted through an examination of the renarration of testimonies and its relationship to time.

Long Abstract

The current focus on sexual violence during conflict is not coincidental. The paper explores the link between sexual violence during conflict and its link to neoliberalism through examination of ethnographic accounts from my book Spectral Wound (Mookherjee 2015) and through accounts from the SVAC Summit in London in 2014.

Beyond a Manichaean aesthetics: voices from the 'grey zone'

Author: Sarah Quillinan (University of Melbourne)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing on Primo Levi’s (1986) discussion of the ‘grey zone’, the presentation seeks to disrupt the concept of the ‘ideal [rape] victim’ by exploring alternate stories of survival, emphasising self-preservation, resistance, and collaboration among women in custodial settings in the Bosnian war.

Long Abstract

During the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the mid-1990s, the figure of the raped woman emerged as a particularly evocative victim identity for the Bosnian Muslim community. In the more than two-decades since the war's end, the 'Rape Victim Identity' (Žarkov, 1997) has become both a compelling and a constraining one. It has contributed to the definition and legitimation of certain narratives of survival, especially those associated with innocence and moral superiority, while simultaneously silencing and marginalising other more complex and varied interpretations that suggest women's agency and resistance. The preoccupation with the quintessential 'authentic victim subject' (Kapur, 2002) in scholarly, legal, and populist writings has failed to fully capture the many different modes of witnessing, enduring, and surviving rape and other sexual assaults during conflict.

The presentation seeks to disrupt the concept of the 'ideal [rape] victim' (Christie, 1986) in an effort to explore the significance of alternative stories of rape survival, those that fit uneasily with accepted narratives of victimhood. Following Primo Levi's (1986) paradigmatic discussion of the 'grey zone', the presentation draws on ethnographic accounts of self-preservation, resistance, and collaboration among women detainees in custodial settings that emphasise the agency and subjectivity of the survivors themselves, and, at times, the moral ambiguity present in the extraordinary space of the univers concentrationnaire (Rousset, 1945). A focus on the 'grey zone' contributes to the development of a richer and more nuanced understanding of the complexities of rape survival, and the weight of past choices on present relationships between survivors.

Recalling violence: symbolic reparations and transformative gender justice in Peru

Author: Jelke Boesten (King's College London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores a feminist reading of gendered memorial art in postconflict Peru. In particular, I explore victimhood, agency, and representation across lines of class, race, and gender in memorial art and if and how such works may unsettle gendered understandings of past and present forms of violence.

Long Abstract

Symbolic reparation, or public memory work, is increasingly seen as an essential part of post-conflict reparation, both by global institutions such as the UN as well as by local and global Transitional Justice advocates. Artists, writers, and curators represent, critique or deconstruct elements of a violent past that are often contested, thereby contributing to debates about the nature of reparation and representation. This paper explores the tension between top-down and bottom-up initiatives and between different narratives of the past. In particular, I explore victimhood, agency, and representation across lines of class, race, and gender and look at how gendered aspects of violence are recalled in artistic representations of the past, and if and how such representations may provide any form of redress, reparation, or consolation for victim-survivors of war.

Isabela Costa, and the athletico-military-industrial-complex or the magic of the state

Author: Amanda De Lisio (University of Toronto)  email

Short Abstract

This paper will discuss the violent, state-led eviction of more than hundred women from a well-known site of sexual commerce, in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Long Abstract

The globally-recognized sport mega-event has been widely touted as a military-industrial complex trade show - an undeniable appendage to the business of war increasingly needed to "softly" showcase the latest in athleticism and ammunition to the (watching) world. In order to understand the state-led violence reeked on local informal economies, the sport mega-event must first be "imagined" as both a target of "foreign" terrorism (following the work of Atkinson & Young, 2012) as well as a needed tool for urbanization. These imaginaries, popularly associated to the event, rationalize the exorbitant effort (and cost) needed to militarize the host context - even if it is obvious that these globally-determined security strategies prioritize and protect the mobilization of global capital in lieu of the local populace. It is for this reason that locally-constitutive stories are needed. The violent eviction of women from a well-known site of sexual commerce will build the empirical basis for this presentation in which fantasies of futurity (as related to event-led urbanism and foreign trade) are used to legitimatize state violence.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.