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'Traitors' of Justice and Graphic Ethnography

May 6, 2021 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Virtual Zoom Webinar (Pacific Time)

The work of justice attempts, at the most basic level, to recognize a past historical wrong and to offer redress and reparation. Its goals are to construct a more just future for the individual (or group) who suffered the injustice, and to chart a new future for society as a whole. Conflict and Post-conflict situations are thus marked by the urgency and need for reconciliation. But is reconciliation always linked to justice, peaceful processes or peaceful outcomes? Are all post-colonialists committed to justice? And justice for whom? Engagement with Justice and Reconciliation allows us to explore the anticipated and unanticipated consequences of their intertwining with that of the figure of the ‘traitor’ - ‘the enemy within’ - who are deemed to be a hindrance to justice and stand against the commonly conjoined twins of justice and reconciliation. What is the role of graphic ethnography in tracing these gaps and tumultuous configurations? What intertextual, intercitational registers do graphic novels draw on? The lecture seeks to map how bereft of historical political-economic contextualizations, the oft-repeated phrase of reconciliation and justice has become hollow and 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 justice. Instead, the lecture will call into question the figuration of the ‘traitor’ in that of the raped woman and ‘war-babies’ of the Bangladesh war. This will allow us to reflect on what implications this has for theorisations of long-term ‘transitional justice’ and reconciliation within historical and contemporary contexts. 


Nayanika Mookherjee is a Professor of Political Anthropology in Durham University and her research concerns an ethnographic exploration of public memories of violent pasts and aesthetic practices of reparative futures. She explores this through debates and engagement with gendered violence in conflicts, memorialisation and transnational adoption. Based on her award-winning book [The Spectral Wound. Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971 (2015 Duke University Press; 2016 Zubaan)], in 2019 she has co-authored with a Bangladeshi visual artist - Najmunnahahr Keya - a survivor-led guideline, graphic novel and animation film: Birangona and ethical testimonies of sexual violence during conflict in Bangla and English which has received the Praxis Award in 2019 from the Association of Professional Anthropologists. It is being used for teaching research methods by academics as well as by governmental and non-governmental organisations working with survivors of sexual violence during conflict. In the United Kingdom, the Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative (PSVI) team with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are using Mookherjee’s guidelines and graphic novel, in developing the Murad Code (named after 2018 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Nadia Murad): a global code of conduct for the documentation and investigation of conflict-related sexual violence.

Read Nayanika Mookherjee's full bio on our website >>


If you need a disability-related accommodation, please contact Requests should be made by April 29th.

Event Sponsor: 
Center for South Asia in collaboration with Center for Human Rights and International Justice, Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, and Institute for South Asia Studies, UC Berkeley
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