Memory, Activism and Social Justice NUBS 3.13
Jul 07, 2023 09:00 - 10:30(Europe/London)
20230707T0900 20230707T1030 Europe/London 8.9. ‘Made material, spoken, and witnessed’: Transnational feminist activism in memorializing racialized gendered violence

This panel thinks through the terrain of transnational feminist activism in relation to memorializing violence, asking what it means to grapple with loss, mourning, grief, and desires to collectively remember and commemorate–as well as urges to forget–in the face of disparate yet always already entangled experiences of racialized and gendered colonial, imperial, militarized, and state violence. We pointedly attend to the communally-oriented memorializing practices and rituals through which memories and grief are "made material, to be spoken, to be witnessed" (Ford-Smith & Stephen, forthcoming) by those most touched by state-sponsored violence and who struggle with the profound task of remembrance amidst and against near certain ongoing, systemic conditions of harm and injustice. The panel highlights such practices from a variety of contexts: Kurdish women's retelling of their stories of harm, suffering, defiance, love, and hope through the literary genre of memoirs; the activism of Black women in the Mothers of the Movement in the United States who memorialize their children who are murdered by state agents or private citizens; the transnational activism of the 'comfort women' redress movement and its travelling Statue of Peace; and a transnational research project that links and theorizes these and other memorial movements. In so doing, a transnational feminist approach to such discussions within, across, and through racialized nation-state borders is invoked, allowing for attention to the particularities and specificities of place-based struggles and differently situated experiences as the grounds from which to explore connections, similarities, and coalitional possibilities. Put into conversation, these papers ask: How does activism in seemingly unconn ...

NUBS 3.13 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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This panel thinks through the terrain of transnational feminist activism in relation to memorializing violence, asking what it means to grapple with loss, mourning, grief, and desires to collectively remember and commemorate–as well as urges to forget–in the face of disparate yet always already entangled experiences of racialized and gendered colonial, imperial, militarized, and state violence. We pointedly attend to the communally-oriented memorializing practices and rituals through which memories and grief are "made material, to be spoken, to be witnessed" (Ford-Smith & Stephen, forthcoming) by those most touched by state-sponsored violence and who struggle with the profound task of remembrance amidst and against near certain ongoing, systemic conditions of harm and injustice. The panel highlights such practices from a variety of contexts: Kurdish women's retelling of their stories of harm, suffering, defiance, love, and hope through the literary genre of memoirs; the activism of Black women in the Mothers of the Movement in the United States who memorialize their children who are murdered by state agents or private citizens; the transnational activism of the 'comfort women' redress movement and its travelling Statue of Peace; and a transnational research project that links and theorizes these and other memorial movements. In so doing, a transnational feminist approach to such discussions within, across, and through racialized nation-state borders is invoked, allowing for attention to the particularities and specificities of place-based struggles and differently situated experiences as the grounds from which to explore connections, similarities, and coalitional possibilities. Put into conversation, these papers ask: How does activism in seemingly unconnected remembrance landscapes speak to, with, and through each other in a world order inflected by colonial, imperial, and neoliberal logics, structures, and strictures? How do these memorializing initiatives not only formulate within but move through complex transnational flows and circuits, and what transpires as they do? What does it mean to inhabit loss, mourning, resistance, and refusal through memorialization at this moment, and what's at stake in doing so? Are there methodological approaches and imperatives that can attend to the layered transnational dynamics and implications of our feminist and queer memorializing landscapes and related navigations of subjectivity and agency? What might transnational feminist analyses of gender, race, sexuality, class, and nation have to offer in this regard? 



Shahrzad Mojab

The past and the absences are present in Kurdish women's memoirs

Kurdish women of Iran (Rojhelat) are retelling their stories of harm, suffering, defiance, love, and hope through the literary genre of memoirs, which is a unique and emergent phenomenon. They write about their relations to family, to their Kurdish land and to nationalism, and to the very fabric of their conception of reality, identity, culture, language, and politics. The memoirs are complex textual histories in which personal and political struggles are woven together. Thus, they compose a collective autobiographical remembering and witnessing. In this paper, I read and think through seven differing women's memoirs to put together overburdened lives of women. In this process, I am not an unresponsive and spectral reader. I trace my personal, political, and intellectual encounters with the lives and struggles of Kurdish women to figure out how to think about everyday women's lives in the past and how to uncover absences to comprehend the present. The seven memoirs examined in this paper constitute diaspora literature, and they are all banned in Iran. Indeed, the very subject of "Kurdish women" is among the censored topics in publications of Iran. Five of the authors write in Persian, and only two write in English with the help of a native-speaker writer. Historically, they primarily cover the 1960s up until the 1979 Revolution and then the 1980s onward, when the suppression by the Islamic State of the Kurds began--hence their displacement and eventual exile around the world. Powerful and captivating images are included in these memoirs as well as a list of almost all women "martyrs;" those who were killed in wars or executed in the Islamic State's prisons. The books are mostly published in Europe and are written after decades of experiencing an exilic life, therefore some of the texts carry cultural and political traces of the "hostland." They cover a range of "untold" stories of Kurdish women's activism in relation to imprisonment, motherhood, displacement, war and violence, loss, and resistance.


Erica Lawson

Maternal Activism and the Politics of Memorialization in the Mothers of the Movement: A Black Feminist Reading

Black women in the Mothers of the Movement in the United States insists on memorializing their children who are murdered by state agents or private citizens. Women's memorializing practices include managing the discursive representations of their children's lives through public talks and political involvement. Some of the mothers have written books or established foundations in their children's names to support progressive initiatives that keep their memories alive. These remembrance practices are related to seeking justice for their children, reclaiming their humanity, and pressing for legal reforms to prevent the future murders of Black people. In this paper, I locate women's deployment of memory and counter-memory in a transnational Black feminist tradition. Mothers' remembrance practices are constitutive of the transhistorical archive of cultural memory that sustains Black life in the African diaspora across generations. Differently stated, I locate the deployment of memorializing practices in the Mothers of the Movement in the cartographies and temporalities of slavery and address how these appear in the 'afterlife of slavery.' Bereaved, politicized Black mothers translate their grief to grievance in their search for justice, and memory plays a central role in how this is done. I conclude by arguing for critical attention to how mothers differently grieve the loss of children to complicate iconic images of bereaved mothers and the implicit view that maternal bereavement must be both political and public. I recognize that public memorialization, while significant, may perpetuate grief; hence the importance of honouring all the ways families remember their deceased children.


Heather Evans

Sifting Grounds: Memorializing Japanese Military 'Sexual Slavery' and the Transnational Lives of the Stat(u)e of Peace

This paper explores how the ideological and legal discourses of military sexual slavery and sex trafficking, and correlated notions of racially gendered agency in relation to neoliberal capitalism and militarized border securitization, have foundationally shaped activism in relation to memorializations of sexualized harm in the international justice landscape. It specifically focuses on the role of 1980s and 1990s international feminist mobilizations in the formation of these discourses, grounding such histories in an examination of the transnational 'comfort women' redress movement, through which understandings of military sexual slavery solidified and gained a place in the international human rights arena. Linking the movement's early terminological considerations and compromises to the contemporary discourses through which the travelling Statue of Peace memorial has materialized in the Canadian context, the paper asks what the memorial spatializes as it moves through and across cultural memoryscapes and what's at stake for memorials to sexual harm more broadly. Drawing on critical human trafficking and sex work studies, Asian feminist scholarship on the 'comfort women' movement, and Black feminist theorizations of Blackness as grounds of the Human order, the analysis employs a methodology of sifting grounds to render visible how colonial logics of sexualized violence travel and (re)assert themselves vis-à-vis feminist memorialization practices, generating certain understandings of not only sexual harm and victimhood but of agency, survivorship, resistance, liberation, peace, memory, and transnationality.


Alison Crosby

The Transnational Dimensions of Feminist Memory Activism

This paper traces the contours of transnational feminist activism in relation to memory movements. It draws on a collaborative research project that brought together feminist scholars, artists, activists, and community practitioners from a wide range of contexts and disciplinary perspectives. Statues, performance, novels, ceremony, memoirs, sonic practices, documentary film, paintings, comic books, embroidery, poetry, archival initiatives, national inquiries, and even legal sentencing hearings were the sites of remembrance praxis through which project participants explored the intersections of memorialization, activism, and the transnational contours of violence and its afterlife. In approaching memory activism through the lens of transnational feminist praxis, the project drew on the scholarly lineage that came to public articulation in the early 1990s through the work of self-identified women-of-colour, Third World, postcolonial, diasporic, and Black feminist intellectuals situated within academic institutions in the Global North but organizing and thinking with feminist scholars and activists through and beyond the Western axis (Alexander & Mohanty, 1997; Grewal & Kaplan, 1994; Mohanty, 1986, 2003). A core driving imperative of transnational feminist praxis is to decenter Western epistemologies, and particularly feminist ones. Of concern are the insidious ways that hegemonies are reproduced through benevolent imperialisms and militarisms, liberalism and liberal feminisms, and development and interventionist paradigms, including human rights and transitional justice mechanisms, to name a few. The scale of these systems of power prioritizes a commitment to centering a plurality of differently situated knowledge and experiences in relation to memory activism transnationally, avoiding pulls to universalize or find unity, and maintaining constant critical scrutiny over the ways that power operates within our activist and scholarly feminist practices and relations (Swarr & Nagar, 2010). This thinking through, not despite or eliding, difference is a crux of the transnational feminist commitment–and imperative–to mobilize such critical self-reflexivity in building cross-cultural, cross-border feminist coalitions. The paper explores what insights arise from bringing the unique amalgamation of commitments, concerns, questions, analyses, and methodologies of transnational feminist thought to bear on questions of memory activism and its transnational dimensions.

Professor
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University of Toronto
PhD candidate
,
York University
Associate Professor
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York University
Associate Professor
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York University
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