Conflict, Violence and Memory NUBS 2.08
Jul 04, 2023 15:45 - 17:15(Europe/London)
20230704T1545 20230704T1715 Europe/London 2.5. Remembering conflict-related sexual(ised) violence: autobiographical, cultural & institutional memoryscapes

Sexual(ised) violence is a problem that reaches across the global community. Within the context of war, armed conflict, and genocide, already vulnerable populations are at further risk of being subjected to sexual abuse. In the Second World War alone, people across all theatres of war suffered sexual(ised) violence, including so-called 'comfort women' abducted into sexual slavery in the Pacific War, German women during the collapse of the Nazi state in 1945, and Jewish women and girls caught up in the Holocaust. Perhaps less known are the story of Republican women in the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, and conflict-related sexual and reproductive violence perpetrated in Peru. Working from a feminist research standpoint, this interdisciplinary panel seeks to explore how these examples of CRSV are remembered across public and private spaces that span autobiographical, familial, cultural, and institutional memory settings.What memories are told? How are these shared? Which memories are heard? Who is not present in public memorials? Why? Moving across different mnemonic spaces enables the panel to probe the dynamics of 'speaking private memory [of CRSV] to public power' (de Langis, 2018) from different perspectives. We begin with the words of victim-survivors subjected to sexual(ised) violence, highlighting the diverse emotionality of their recounting, which remains absent from cultural discourses. The panel then shifts to focus on the representation of CRSV at memorial sites such as national museums and public memorials, probing the extent to which such sites are/can be opportunities for critical intervention, political transformation, and change. Collectively, we offer a critical analysis of existing frameworks for remembering CRSV beyond simplistic tropes of unsp ...

NUBS 2.08 MSA Conference Newcastle 2023 conference@memorystudiesassociation.org
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Sexual(ised) violence is a problem that reaches across the global community. Within the context of war, armed conflict, and genocide, already vulnerable populations are at further risk of being subjected to sexual abuse. In the Second World War alone, people across all theatres of war suffered sexual(ised) violence, including so-called 'comfort women' abducted into sexual slavery in the Pacific War, German women during the collapse of the Nazi state in 1945, and Jewish women and girls caught up in the Holocaust. Perhaps less known are the story of Republican women in the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, and conflict-related sexual and reproductive violence perpetrated in Peru. Working from a feminist research standpoint, this interdisciplinary panel seeks to explore how these examples of CRSV are remembered across public and private spaces that span autobiographical, familial, cultural, and institutional memory settings.

What memories are told? How are these shared? Which memories are heard? Who is not present in public memorials? Why? Moving across different mnemonic spaces enables the panel to probe the dynamics of 'speaking private memory [of CRSV] to public power' (de Langis, 2018) from different perspectives. We begin with the words of victim-survivors subjected to sexual(ised) violence, highlighting the diverse emotionality of their recounting, which remains absent from cultural discourses. The panel then shifts to focus on the representation of CRSV at memorial sites such as national museums and public memorials, probing the extent to which such sites are/can be opportunities for critical intervention, political transformation, and change. Collectively, we offer a critical analysis of existing frameworks for remembering CRSV beyond simplistic tropes of unspeakability and passive victimhood.



Lauren Cantillon

'I'm happy I am talking about it but still it hurts': entangled emotions in recounting personal memories of sexual(ised) violence

In a recent Special Issue of Memory Studies, Tea Sindbæk Andersen and Jessica Ortner challenge the field 'to think […] beyond trauma and outside of trauma', calling for memory scholars to pay attention to 'the subtle entanglement of joy, hope and trauma' so as to 'contribute to a more differentiated understanding of the nature of memory' (2019: 7). While trauma is a valid emotional response to being subjected to sexual(ised) violence, it is not the only emotional response present in forms of autobiographical recounting in which participants disclose memories of sexual abuse. This trauma paradigm has damaging consequences in the community; in their work on sexual assault adjudication in the contemporary United States of America, Heather R. Marks and Sameena Mulla note that, when giving testimony in court, 'adult women were consistently cast as noncredible if they did not visibly demonstrate profound and spectacular trauma' (2021: 83). This is a cultural trope that inhibits, flattens, and excludes.

Drawing on audiovisual testimony interviews from the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive, this paper explores the emotion(s) in personal memory narratives of Jewish women who recount being subjected to sexual(ised) violence during the Holocaust. Building on Peter Goldie's concept of the 'ironic gap' (2012) of emotionality between past and present selves and Tamar Katriel's (2015) work on emotion and discourse, I identify emotion(s) embodied and specified by survivors in the moment of remembering as well as the remembered emotion(s) that survivors describe as part of their narrative. How are these interwoven with one another through different temporal strands of memory? My approach centres the women's own sense-making and framing of these memories (Gray, Stern & Dolan, 2020), ultimately highlighting the textures of emotions and feelings present in autobiographical memory, beyond the single-note of trauma.


M. Paula O'Donohoe

"Rapadas" and "Paseadas". Transmitting sexual(ised) violence from the Spanish Civil War

During the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath, the bodies of Republican women turned into a site of Francoist repression. One of the most well-known reprisals that best symbolise this sexual(ised) violence was shaving their heads and making them walk in public spaces after forcing them to drink castor oil. Sometimes, they were accompanied by the village band or were forced to sing by themselves, while their neighbours insulted them and sometimes threw stones at them. However, these were usually not isolated events but were often accompanied by rape, torture and body searches. Furthermore, it was an exemplary punishment reserved only for women, especially those who broke out of the patriarchal ideology of Francoism, those who had been politically active on the Republican side or were related to a Republican man (father, brother or partner). Although the shaven Republican women form part of the imaginary of the victims of Francoism, featured in many books, films and documentaries, their experiences and memories are often transmitted through euphemisms, silences, and taking things for granted. With this presentation, I aim to shed light on how the memories of the victims of this sexual(ised) violence have been transmitted. I will base my analysis on the interviews conducted during my doctoral research on the transgenerational transmission of memories in Spain. I developed these interviews between 2019 and 2021 with four generations of Spaniards to know how some transmit their memories, and others acquire them.


Katherine Stone

From Contentious Memory to Reclaimed History? Embedding wartime sexualised violence in German Memory Institutions

The shift to a post-witness era in Germany has seen renewed debates about how to integrate civilian suffering into the landscapes of institutional memory. Conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) occupies an ambivalent position in such debates, having never been subject to the same drive for public commemoration as aerial bombing or flight and expulsion. Instead, memories of CRSV have been cultivated and transmitted in the cultural sphere. One question that this paper pursues is what happens when this multivocal, shifting, and ephemeral cultural memory becomes captured, condensed, and fixed with institutional spaces? As a starting point, I will analyse a 2010 discussion in the Berlin House of Representatives about a proposed memorial to commemorate "The women who were defiled in Berlin in spring 1945." Key questions include: How could such a memorial balance memories of CRSV on German soil with an acknowledgement of sexualised violence perpetrated by the Wehrmacht and SS? What frameworks exist for remembering CRSV beyond simplistic and politically-suspect tropes of passive victimhood? Which forms of institutional recognition and memory are most meaningful at a time when the youngest survivors are now octogenarians? And-given the stigmatising language of the proposal-what might a transformative memorial to CRSV look like, one that serves as a "critical intervention, rather than a representation of suffering" (Boesten 2019, p. 181).

In the second part of my paper, I will argue that the landmark exhibition "Violence and Gender: Masculine War – Feminine Peace?" at the Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden offers some promising solutions to these dilemmas, using "agonistic" (Cento Bull & Hansen, 2016) practices of disruption and juxtaposition to encourage critical reflection on how German women's experiences during World War II relate to broader cultures of racist, imperialist, and patriarchal violence. In this respect, the exhibition openly engages with the politics of visibility, audibility, and archiving knowledge that shape institutional memory. Ultimately, however, I argue that it fails to move beyond "a representation of suffering" in several key respects.


Phoebe Martin & Harriet Gray

Absent Presences: The (dis)appearance of perpetrators in sexual violence memorials

Sexual violence, despite its devastating prevalence, has not often been represented in the built memorials that populate public spaces worldwide. At the current moment in time, however, when multiple sites across the globe are witnessing renewed struggles over the interpretation of sexual violence, as well as the hard-fought debate around the values that should be represented in public memorials, an increasing number of activist groups are choosing memorialisation as one way of claiming space and authority for their narratives around this form of harm. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these memorials focus on the representation of victim-survivors. They seek to transform sexual victimisation from a source of shame to be hidden into a recognised and honoured identity category that can be and is publicly claimed as an act of political protest. In the overwhelming majority of examples, the perpetrators of sexual violence are less immediately apparent in such memorials. Representing perpetrators move memorials into complicated terrain, including legal challenges and, in the case of war-time violence, the difficulty of identifying specific actors. In this paper, we turn our attention to the (dis)appearance of perpetrators in sexual violence memorials, including those that deal with the so-called 'Comfort Women' of the Asia-Pacific War, sexual violence in the contemporary USA, and conflict-related sexual and reproductive violence in Peru. We trace how the figure of the perpetrator is directly represented, deliberately obscured, and/or left as a haunting presence within such memorials and unpack the politics that such presences and absences (re)produce. 

PhD Researcher
,
King's College London
Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Associate Professor
,
University of Warwick
Postdoctoral Research Associate
,
University of York
Senior Lecturer
,
University of York
King's College London
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