The Art Gallery of Hamilton presents “SONGIDE’EWIN: Aboriginal Narratives”
April 12 – May 12 2013 The Jean and Ross Fischer Gallery
Cinema Cycle: Three Neorealist Films and One Homage
The Culture of Cities Centre and the CMTS invite you to a screening and discussion of four classic films of Italian cinema. We present these screenings in order to open debate on the question:
how do neorealism and its aftermath speak to the “real” of our current political and social situation?
Fridays @ 6:30
January 18 – Rome, Open City (Roma, città aperta, 1945), Roberto Rossellini
February 1 – Bicycle Thief (Ladri di bicicletti, 1945), Vittorio De Sica
March 8 – Umberto D (1952), Vittorio De Sica
April 12 - We All Loved Each Other So Much (C’eravamo tanto amati, 1974) Ettore Scola.
Place: The Culture of Cities Centre @ The Centre for Social Innovation, Meeting Rm 4, Third floor.
Free – bring food and wine to share if you can.
CSI Annex 720 Bathurst Street, 3rd floor Toronto, ON M5S 2R4 Tel. 416-323-3251
Friday, April 5, 2013
Dr. David Caron
Professor of French and Women’s Studies,
University of Michigan
Nearness, proximity, neighborliness… whatever you want to call it, there has to be a way to make contact with other people without making any proprietary claim on them. From the literary tactics of Auschwitz survivor Charlotte Delbo to the “Missing” flyers of 9/11, this presentation seeks to articulate a theory of beckoning as a testimonial practice from which to envision this sort of relationality in, rather than against, difference.
Participants: Kim Anderson (Aboriginal Studies, WLU), Colman Hogan (English, Ryerson), Ginette Lafrenière (Social Work, WLU), Sharon Marquart (Lang and Lit, WLU), Marta Marín-Dòmine (Lang and Lit, WLU), Laura Mosco (Lang and Lit, WLU), Kristiina Montero (Education, WLU).
Co-sponsored with Languages and Literatures and Social Innovation Research Group (S.I.R.G)
To inaugurate Wilfrid Laurier University’s new Centre for Memory and Testimony Studies (CMTS), please join us for our first public event, open to all members of the Laurier community.
Dr. David Caron has written extensively on issues related to memory, the Holocaust, AIDS testimony, queer identity, and queer politics; his research has been supported by grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, among others. He will present remarks on the status of memory after September 11th.
The second part of the workshop will highlight the research, activities, exhibits, and creative projects currently being undertaken by members of the CMTS, as well as a presentation of the projected forthcoming activities organized by the Centre.
Day: April 5, 2013
Time: 10.30am-1pm / 1.30pm-3.30pm
Location: Alumni Hall, Wilfrid Laurier Campus.
The text of Beckoning can be found here.
CMTS Seminar: Reading Alain Badiou’s Ethics. February 12, 2011. Laurier Toronto
CMTS Seminar: Reading Alain Badiou’s Inaesthetics. May 7, 2011. Laurier Toronto
CMTS Seminar: Reading Lacan’s Ethics of Psychoanalysis. June 24, 2011. Laurier Toronto
Past Conferences / Panels:
CMTS panel: Representing Violence: Trauma, Memory, History for the
“Memory, Mediation, Remediation:
International Conference on Memory in Literature and Film”
Wilfrid Laurier University, April 28-30, 2011
This panel examines questions of representation and the representability of violence from five perspectives: (1) a comparative analysis of Spanish (national) and Catalonian constructions of history and memory since 1939 through memorial sites and urban actions, (2) an examination of the relations between the dehumanization inherent in violence and the re-humanization of the subject in testimony, (3) an analysis of the role of testimony both as a truth carrier and as an active element in the configuration of national politics, (4) an analysis of how the symbolic order is employed in the representation of the real in four genocide films, and (5) a critical evaluation of the arguments for and against the idea of a testimonial pact. Each of these approaches studies a point of contact between violent, often traumatic events and their inscription (or ex-scription, to borrow Jean-Luc Nancy’s expression) in memory, memoirs or memorials, individual narratives or collective history. Whether the papers explore the urban space along with some literary works and their role in the creation of collective memory of Barcelona, the cinematic representations of genocide/ethnocide from different eras and contexts, the systematic slaughter of villagers in Columbia, political struggles in Argentina, or the theory of testimony as such, each meditates upon the power and limits of representation in the context of violent events.
This panel is organized by the Centre for Memory and Testimony Studies collective, an inter-university research group based at Wilfrid Laurier University.
Urban discourses and official politics of memory in contemporary Spain and Catalonia
The victory of the fascists at the end of the Spanish Civil War (1939) meant, among other things, the implementation of a historical discourse based on the myth of a unified past throughout Spain, which allowed as well for the construction of a common enemy, the “red,” which is to say, half the population defeated in the struggle against fascism.
The nearly forty years of Franco’s dictatorship constructed a narrative “national history” on the basis of the imperial grandeur of a (unified) Spain while giving legitimacy to the military who performed the coup d’état against the democratic institutions in 1936, and to the Catholic hierarchy implicated along with the dictator in carrying out a national “crusade” until 1975, year of Franco’s death.
At the end of the war, in April 1939, the repression started with mass executions of those who had belonged to the legitimate forces of the left. This violence, expressed in various forms and shapes, was present until 1975, although the myths that fuelled the right-wing forces are still present in contemporary Spain.
In 1975 the country initiated a complex process of re-establishing democratic institutions. Nevertheless it is only since 2007, following the advent of the law of “Historical Memory,” that the Spanish Government has officially recognized the repressive years. This law seeks, as much as other official laws implemented in different countries, to compensate the victims (whether living within the Spanish territories or in exile, as well as the foreigners who came to Spain to fight against fascism), and to promote the dissemination of narratives concerning repressed past events.
In parallel, the Catalan government passed, in November of 2007, a law creating the “Democratic Memorial,” a body charged with various activities geared toward facilitating the recuperation of the past (1931-1980) within the Catalan territory. Despite the year of approval, the Memorial has a rather short list of public activities, the most notable being the creation of public memorials marking the landscape with the memory traces of past violent events.
My presentation will analyse the differences between the Spanish and the Catalan politics of memory, and will offer a critical presentation of the modes and uses of past representation, most notably the creation of discourses meant to create a collective identity. Some contemporary literary works will be analysed and place in parallel with the representation of memory of past event in the urban landscape of Barcelona. To show the difficulty in establishing such a policy I will refer to the latest political debates that have confronted the traditional parties of the right (heirs to the Spanish fascist past) with the democratic forces. The presentation will be accompanied by visual materials that would allow a brief comparison with other urban memory sites.
Testimony and violence
What does a witness or a victim of violence speak about when he or she speaks about the event? Much of it has to do with the unheimlich experience of human beings dehumanized by violence. The most poignant testimony is one that emerges from the rubble of the human in an attempt to re-humanize himself, herself or others.
Some experiences of violence show that the systematic dehumanization of the victim is not an incidental by-product of violence, but its fundamental and essential purpose. A series of historical examples show that very often, the first condition for the perpetrators to act in a radically violent way is to put the potential victim symbolically beyond the limits of recognition as human. But we can also see that dehumanization is something to be obtained as a result of the very same act of violence. So, dehumanization is in part a pre-condition for violence, in part is what violence is expected to produce.
Anthropologists have shown, for example, that in the era of the worst violence between the two main parties in Colombia, a series of ritual mass murders were perpetrated in which the bodies of the victims were dismembered using the instruments and type of cuts associated with animals in the slaughterhouse, sometimes accompanied by words and expressions that identified the victims and their bodies with animals or animal parts. Moreover, the remains were set in a theatrical disposition in the aim of horrifying the people who would discover them when returning to the village.
The experience of horror that is the aim of such practices should not be considered accessory. There is a special pleasure for perpetrators in inducing that kind of feeling, either in the victim or (if the victim has been murdered) in he or she who discovers the remains.
One of the more terrifying and destructive experiences of those affected by violence is related to having witnessed this kind of jouissance, in the Lacanian sense of the term. This jouissance explores the limits of what can still be considered human, or humanity on the verge of disappearing. Something of this is related to the widely used expression “crimes against humanity.”
Testimony is in part an attempt to reverse this operation, introducing words, as something essentially human, but speaking precisely of that feeling of having been almost annihilated as a human being, either physically, emotionally or ethically.
Hugo De Marinis
Struggles of contemporary testimony in Argentina
If we rudimentarily consider testimony as voice of the voiceless, as a discursive account of those who inhabit the margins of society – be those margins political, ideological, racial, religious, etc. – or as the only alternative historical version against certain prevalent hegemonic discourses in contemporary human conglomerates, Latin America possesses a rich and long history of this type of discourse, extending as far back as the invasion by Christopher Columbus of the Americas in 1492.
The territory presently known as Argentina has produced a profusion of written testimonial accounts, both during its colonial times and also in its 200 years of existence as a nation. These accounts include testimonies per se and also such literary genres as testimonial and non-fiction novels and chronicles, among others.
The Argentinean testimony, however, has become unusually prolific since March 24, 1976, the date of the last coup d’état in the country. Since then it has been growing exponentially, and it has had an odd juridical and ideological importance to the extent that it become part of the configuration of the political conjuncture.
On one hand, the written testimonial accounts claim a version of the truth which competes against traditional historic and documentary discourses in a furious battle for recovering memories and rendering factual events concealed both by the alleged righteousness of the victors and the secretiveness of the defeated. On the other hand, contemporary testimonies intend to humanize one of the adversaries with their own and diverse perspectives – again, those of the victims and/or the tactically defeated – offering once more their original objectives and proposals from the 1970s, although through different means.
Thus, some testimonies seem to put into question their authors’ conditions as victims or as defeated, and in some cases, they also call into question the current policies adopted by successful official human rights organizations presently operating in Argentina.
In this paper I will discuss the diverse stages of these testimonial experiences in the country, the political options they appear to have recently embraced, and the struggles in which they are engaged to re-discover the “truth,” which this type of genre has adopted as its own.
Potential In/capacity: the real-in-representation
“…to bear witness is to place oneself in one’s own language in the position of those who have lost it, to establish oneself in a living language as if it were dead, or in a dead language as if it were living.”
Giorgio Agamben, Remnants of Auschwitz (161)
“…a glorious page of our history that has never been written and never shall be written.”
Heinrich Himmler, on the Final Solution
Quite obviously genocide is an enterprise written under the sign of its own erasure, both act and product, an erasure-endeavour. However, as Himmler articulates it, genocide both presupposes and poses the question of erasure as an infinite operator that resides forever outside symbolization (‘has never been … never shall be’), in much the same way that convention envisages the mathematical infinite in the form of ellipses bracketing numeration/symbolization: ‘… 1, 2, 3 …’ But Himmler’s phrasing contains much more than it appears to say. For ever since Cantor we have come to recognize that the infinite inhabits every point in the numerical continuum, that there is just ‘as much’ infinity (the same ‘cardinality’ is Cantor’s term) between the numbers 1 and 2 (or indeed inside the two closest numbers one can imagine) as there is in the elliptical outside of the three dots. One conclusion we may draw from these premises is that given erasure is both an infinite endeavour and one that may be said to inhabit the interiority of every articulation, in order to articulate genocide one will have to place oneself inside a certain infinite, a certain language of quasi-possibility, a language we may say of in/capacity.
This paper poses the question: ‘what is the nature of that language and how it is employed in the representation of the real as it appears in a series of ethnocide/genocide films?’ – The Last Stage (Ostatni Etap; Wanda Jakubowska, 1948), Kapò (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1959), Angry Harvest (Bittere Ernt; Agnieszka Holland, 1985), and Katyn (Andrzej Wada, 2007). More specifically, the paper will make its comparative fulcrum an analysis of the permutations of the real-in-representation that each cinematic narrative employs to transmit the traumatic kernel of ethnic extermination.
The Testimonial Pact
This paper explores the pros and cons of a hypothetical “testimonial pact” modeled on Philippe Lejeune’s autobiographical pact. Although such a pact has not, to my knowledge, been formalized, I argue that it is enacted in numerous acts of reading and that it would therefore behove us to analyze and evaluate it.
The argument here develops in several stages, first proposing that testimonial pacts pose a temptation to readers who wish to offer themselves a criterion for determining whether accounts they read fall into the category of fiction or non-fiction. Using the example of Binjamin Wilkomirski’s Fragments as a limit case, I argue that the sense of betrayal readers felt upon discovering that this first-person account of a Jewish survivor of the Shoah was written by a Christian who had never set foot in a concentration camp, offers evidence that a testimonial pact of sorts had effectively been signed between reader and writer, and that the revelation after the fact of the author’s empirical identity was tantamount, for some readers, to the discovery of a forged signature.
Having argued that the testimonial pact constitutes a temptation on the reader’s part, especially given the fact that the stakes are generally higher in determining the veracity of an account of the camps, for example, than they are in determining whether or not, say, Rousseau stole Mme Lambercier’s comb, I move to a critical examination of Lejeune’s theory and its applicability to testimonial literature. I rely heavily in this section on Paul de Man’s critique of Lejeune, according to which any book with a legible title page is, to a certain extent, autobiographical, while at the same time, due to the inextricability of figural and literal languages, “none of them is or can be.” In contrast to Lejeune, whose autobiographical pact would contractually guarantee the identity of the autobiographer, for de Man, autobiography offers a figure in both senses of the French word: a face, which is to say a flesh-and-blood referent, that is at the same time a literary trope or figure of speech. Unlike Lejeune, according to whom “an identity is or is not. It is impossible to speak of degrees,” de Man insists on the split within the autobiographical subject. This critique that de Man offers of Lejeune is particularly fruitful in the context of testimonial accounts of traumatic events, for, as Cathy Caruth and others have shown, trauma is in many cases an experience which shatters the subject’s self-identity, and the traumatic narrative may bear witness first and foremost to precisely this shattering.
I conclude with considerations of the traumatic narrative that would enable us to think about testimonial literature in ways that place it outside the realm of the contractual agreement or pact, without nonetheless playing into the hands of Holocaust deniers or historical revisionists. To the extent that testimony bears witness to traumatic events in much the same way that a scar bears witness to an accident (as opposed to fulfilling an obligation to tell the truth), the category of trauma enables us to rethink what it means to bear witness.