Places of Traumatic Memory: A Global Context [1st ed.] 9783030520557, 9783030520564

This volume explores the relationship between place, traumatic memory, and narrative. Drawing on cases from Africa, Asia

283 16 6MB

English Pages XVI, 319 [324] Year 2020

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Places of Traumatic Memory: A Global Context [1st ed.]
 9783030520557, 9783030520564

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xvi
Acknowledging Trauma in a Global Context: Narrative, Memory and Place (Amy L. Hubbell, Sol Rojas-Lizana, Natsuko Akagawa, Annie Pohlman)....Pages 1-12
Front Matter ....Pages 13-13
Long Tan, Coral-Balmoral and Binh Ba: Remembered, Unremembered and Disremembered Battlefields from Australia’s Vietnam War (William Logan)....Pages 15-35
‘Difficult Heritage’, Silent Witnesses: Dismembering Traumatic Memories, Narratives and Emotions of Firebombing in Japan (Natsuko Akagawa)....Pages 37-59
No Place to Remember: Haunting and the Search for Mass Graves in Indonesia (Annie Pohlman)....Pages 61-82
The Visitor’s Gaze in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile (Sol Rojas-Lizana)....Pages 83-106
Front Matter ....Pages 107-107
Remembering World War I in Australia: Hyde Park as Site of Memory (Nina Parish, Chiara O’Reilly)....Pages 109-131
Sites of Memory, Sites of Ruination in Postcolonial France and the Francosphere (Charles Forsdick)....Pages 133-155
‘The Most Intimate Familiarity and the Most Extreme Existential Alienation’: Ilse Aichinger’s Memories of Nazi-Era Vienna (Geoff Wilkes)....Pages 157-174
Black Skin as Site of Memory: Stories of Trauma from the Black Atlantic (Jarrod Hayes)....Pages 175-194
Front Matter ....Pages 195-195
Humanitarian Journalism and the Representation of Survivors of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Mass Violence (Tiania Stevens)....Pages 197-217
Remembering the 5 July 1962 Massacre in Oran, Algeria (Amy L. Hubbell)....Pages 219-240
Cultural Practices as Sites of Trauma and Empathic Distress in Like Cotton Twines (2016) and Grass between my Lips (2008) (Dennis-Brook Prince Lotsu)....Pages 241-261
Screen Memories in True Crime Documentary: Trauma, Bodies, and Places in The Keepers (2017) and Casting JonBenet (2017) (Bonnie Evans)....Pages 263-283
Chile 1988: Trauma and Resistance in Pablo Larraín’s No (2012) (Marguerite La Caze)....Pages 285-307
Back Matter ....Pages 309-319

Citation preview


Places of Traumatic Memory A Global Context Edited by Amy L. Hubbell Natsuko Akagawa Sol Rojas-Lizana Annie Pohlman Sol

Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies Series Editors Andrew Hoskins University of Glasgow Glasgow, UK John Sutton Department of Cognitive Science Macquarie University Macquarie, Australia

The nascent field of Memory Studies emerges from contemporary trends that include a shift from concern with historical knowledge of events to that of memory, from ‘what we know’ to ‘how we remember it’; changes in generational memory; the rapid advance of technologies of memory; panics over declining powers of memory, which mirror our fascination with the possibilities of memory enhancement; and the development of trauma narratives in reshaping the past. These factors have contributed to an intensification of public discourses on our past over the last thirty years. Technological, political, interpersonal, social and cultural shifts affect what, how and why people and societies remember and forget. This groundbreaking new series tackles questions such as: What is ‘memory’ under these conditions? What are its prospects, and also the prospects for its interdisciplinary and systematic study? What are the conceptual, theoretical and methodological tools for its investigation and illumination? More information about this series at

Amy L. Hubbell  •  Natsuko Akagawa Sol Rojas-Lizana  •  Annie Pohlman Editors

Places of Traumatic Memory A Global Context

Editors Amy L. Hubbell School of Languages and Cultures Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences The University of Queensland Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Natsuko Akagawa School of Languages and Cultures Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences The University of Queensland Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Sol Rojas-Lizana School of Languages and Cultures Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences The University of Queensland Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Annie Pohlman School of Languages and Cultures Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences The University of Queensland Brisbane, QLD, Australia

ISSN 2634-6257     ISSN 2634-6265 (electronic) Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies ISBN 978-3-030-52055-7    ISBN 978-3-030-52056-4 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: kundoy / gettyimages Cover design: eStudioCalamar This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


This volume explores the connections between memory, narrative and place across multiple cultural contexts. The book brings together fourteen original analyses of sites of trauma and the representation of traumatic memory through a wide range of sources and different scholarly lenses. The chapters explore cases from across six continents to examine the connections between texts, testimonies, film and the physical spaces where trauma was experienced or is commemorated. This volume arises from presentations made at a workshop at The University of Queensland in July 2018. First, we would like to thank all the participants at this workshop; presenters came from around the world and around Australia to take part. Second, we would like to thank the contributors to this volume who offered their papers for publication and who have worked intensely with us to edit and develop their work. Third, we would like to thank the School of Languages and Cultures for their support of the workshop and the volume through a Strategic Research Initiative Fund grant. In the course of the workshop and the production of this volume we have received assistance from several research assistants, including Jenny Barnett, Jorien van Beukering, Isaac Bennett, Imogen Pozzi, Dzmitry Pravatorau and Michael Brunott. We have also received assistance in reviewing the volume from three external referees and we thank them for their feedback and advice, which we hope has strengthened the book.




Lastly, we thank the team at Palgrave Macmillan and, in particular, Mala Sanghera-Warren and Bryony Burns, for assisting us along the way with the production and finalisation of the manuscript. Brisbane, QLD, Australia Brisbane, QLD, Australia  Brisbane, QLD, Australia  Brisbane, QLD, Australia 

Amy L. Hubbell Natsuko Akagawa Sol Rojas-Lizana Annie Pohlman


1 Acknowledging Trauma in a Global Context: Narrative, Memory and Place  1 Amy L. Hubbell, Sol Rojas-Lizana, Natsuko Akagawa, and Annie Pohlman Part I Memorial Spaces  13 2 Long Tan, Coral-Balmoral and Binh Ba: Remembered, Unremembered and Disremembered Battlefields from Australia’s Vietnam War 15 William Logan 3 ‘Difficult Heritage’, Silent Witnesses: Dismembering Traumatic Memories, Narratives and Emotions of Firebombing in Japan 37 Natsuko Akagawa 4 No Place to Remember: Haunting and the Search for Mass Graves in Indonesia 61 Annie Pohlman




5 The Visitor’s Gaze in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile 83 Sol Rojas-Lizana Part II Sites of Trauma 107 6 Remembering World War I in Australia: Hyde Park as Site of Memory109 Nina Parish and Chiara O’Reilly 7 Sites of Memory, Sites of Ruination in Postcolonial France and the Francosphere133 Charles Forsdick 8 ‘The Most Intimate Familiarity and the Most Extreme Existential Alienation’: Ilse Aichinger’s Memories of Nazi-Era Vienna157 Geoff Wilkes 9 Black Skin as Site of Memory: Stories of Trauma from the Black Atlantic175 Jarrod Hayes Part III Traumatic Representations 195 10 Humanitarian Journalism and the Representation of Survivors of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Mass Violence197 Tiania Stevens 11 Remembering the 5 July 1962 Massacre in Oran, Algeria219 Amy L. Hubbell 12 Cultural Practices as Sites of Trauma and Empathic Distress in Like Cotton Twines (2016) and Grass between my Lips (2008)241 Dennis-Brook Prince Lotsu



13 Screen Memories in True Crime Documentary: Trauma, Bodies, and Places in The Keepers (2017) and Casting JonBenet (2017)263 Bonnie Evans 14 Chile 1988: Trauma and Resistance in Pablo Larraín’s No (2012)285 Marguerite La Caze Index309

Notes on Contributors

Natsuko Akagawa  is Senior Lecturer at the University of Queensland. She researches heritage discourse, politics and practice in a global context and is Series General Editor for Routledge Research on Museums and Heritage in Asia and a member of the editorial board for Museum History Journal. Her recent books include Heritage Conservation and Cultural Diplomacy (Routledge 2015), Safeguarding Intangible Heritage (Routledge 2019) and Intangible Heritage (2009). She is an Expert Member for International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), International Scientific Committee on Intangible Cultural Heritage for ICOMOS, a member of the International Council of Museums (ICOM) and a member of International Committee of Memorial Museums for ICOM. Bonnie Evans  is a PhD candidate at the School of Communication and Arts, University of Queensland, with research interests in crime and horror genres, screen corporeality, film feminisms, and documentary. Her doctoral thesis concerns the relationship between embodiment, feminism, violence, and genre in recent film and television. Charles Forsdick  is James Barrow Professor of French at the University of Liverpool. He has published on a range of subjects, including travel writing, colonial history, postcolonial and world literature, and the memorialisation of slavery. Recent books include The Black Jacobins Reader (Duke University Press, 2016), Toussaint Louverture: Black Jacobin in an Age of Revolution (Pluto, 2017) and Keywords for Travel Writing Studies (Anthem Press, 2019). Between 2016 and 2018, Forsdick led xi



an international project, with partners in France and Australia, on ‘“Dark Tourism” in Comparative Perspective: Sites of Suffering, Sites of Memory’. Jarrod  Hayes  is Professor of French Studies at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. His research is situated at the intersections of French postcolonial studies and queer theory. He is the author of Queer Nations: Marginal Sexualities in the Maghreb (Chicago, 2000), and his Queer Roots for the Diaspora, Ghosts in the Family Tree was published by the University of Michigan Press in 2016. He co-edited, with Margaret R. Higonnet and William J. Spurlin, Comparatively Queer: Interrogating Identities across Time and Cultures (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). His current project is titled Reading across the Color Line: Racialization in the French. Amy  L.  Hubbell is Senior Lecturer in French at the University of Queensland where she teaches French and Francophone literature and culture. Her research is focused on trauma and memory of the Algerian War represented in literature and art. She is author of Hoarding Memory: Covering the Wounds of the Algerian War (2020) and Remembering French Algeria: Pieds-Noirs, Identity and Exile (2015) and has co-edited several volumes including The Unspeakable: Representations of Trauma in Francophone Literature and Art (2013) and Textual and Visual Selves: Photography, Film and Comic Art in French Autobiography (2011). Marguerite La Caze  is Associate Professor in philosophy at the University of Queensland. Her publications include Ethical Restoration after Communal Violence (Lexington, 2018), Wonder and Generosity: Their Role in Ethics and Politics (SUNY, 2013), The Analytic Imaginary (Cornell, 2002), Integrity and the Fragile Self, with Damian Cox and Michael Levine (Ashgate, 2003), the edited collection Phenomenology and Forgiveness (Rowman and Littlefield International, 2018) and articles on ethics, politics, and aesthetics and the work of a range of European philosophers. She held an Australian Research Council (ARC) Australian Research Fellowship (2003–2007) and an ARC Discovery grant ‘Ethical restoration after communal violence: a philosophical account’ (2014–2018). William Logan  is Professor Emeritus at Deakin University and fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia. He was formerly UNESCO Chair of Heritage and Urbanism at Deakin University, member of the



Victorian Heritage Council and president of Australia ICOMOS.  He has undertaken UNESCO and ICOMOS missions to Bangladesh, China, Laos, Pakistan and Vietnam. He has published extensively on cultural heritage, particularly in relation to human rights, peace and security; war remembrance, commemoration and memorialisation; heritage in cities and urban planning; World Heritage; Vietnamese and other Asian heritage. Dennis-Brook  P.  Lotsu is a doctoral candidate in the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Queensland. He has a Master of Philosophy in Communication Studies from the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana; Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana; and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education from the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana. His research interests are in violence and trauma representation in African cinema and literature, gender and media studies, visual culture, cultural phenomenology and strategic communications. Chiara  O’Reilly  is the Director of the Museum and Heritage Studies program at the University of Sydney. Her research examines cultural institutions (Galleries, Science Museums and Social History Museums) to critically consider their history, contemporary role and how their function changes over time. Her research has been published in the Journal of the History of Collections, Museum Management and Curatorship and Museums & Society and she recently co-authored with Anna Lawrenson The rise of the must-see exhibition: Blockbusters in Australian Museums and Galleries (Routledge, 2019). Nina  Parish is Professor of French and Francophone Studies at the University of Stirling. She works on representations of difficult history, the migrant experience and multilingualism in the museum space. Between 2016 and March 2019 she was part of the EU-funded Horizon 2020 UNREST team working on innovative memory practices in sites of trauma including war museums and mass graves ( She is also an expert on the interaction between text and image in the field of modern and contemporary French Studies. She has published widely on this subject, in particular, on the poet and visual artist, Henri Michaux.



Annie  Pohlman  teaches Indonesian at The University of Queensland, Australia. Her research covers Indonesian history, comparative genocide studies, torture and gendered experiences of violence. She is author of Women, sexual violence, and the Indonesian killings of 1965–66 (2015), and co-editor of a range of volumes on mass violence in Southeast Asia. Sol Rojas-Lizana  teaches Spanish and Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland. Her areas of research are Discourse Studies in connection with issues of power, discrimination, memory and trauma from a decolonial perspective. Her work has been published in Journal of Pragmatics, Critical Discourse Studies, Forensic Linguistics, and Languages in Contrast, among others. She published The Discourse of Perceived Discrimination: Perspectives from Contemporary Australian Society (Routledge, 2019). Sol is also the co-author of the historical Graphic Memoir Historias Clandestinas (2014) which is currently being made into a film. Tiania Stevens’  research focuses upon the testimonies of Bosnian Muslim survivors of concentration camps and questions how both journalists and journalism can engage ethically and empathetically with the stories survivors have to tell us. Tiania trained at The University of Queensland, completed a Master’s degree in War Studies at King’s College, University of London, and has previously worked as a reporter in Bosnia, South Africa, the Middle East, and the UK. Geoff Wilkes  is a Senior Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. He has published on the novels of Hans Fallada, Irmgard Keun, Vicki Baum and Bernhard Schlink, and translated single works by Fallada and Keun, and four works by Ilse Aichinger (The Greater Hope, Film and Fate: Camera Flashes Illuminating A Life, Improbable Journeys, and Kleist, Moss, Pheasants).

List of Figures

Fig. 3.1 Fig. 3.2

Fig. 4.1 Fig. 4.2 Fig. 4.3 Fig. 5.1 Fig. 6.1 Fig. 6.2 Fig. 10.1

Sennintsuka in Osaka stands on the now peaceful riverbank where thousands were buried. (Source: Author 2020) 42 The handmade kimono of a 7-month old child donated to Tokyo daikushu sensai shiryo centre by her 94-year old mother 62 years after she had lost her to the flames. (Source: Author 2018)49 A man standing and pointing into the landscape, Grobogan regency, Central Java. (Posted on Facebook, 19 February 2018, photograph by Pak Bedjo [used with permission]) 63 A sinkhole in the Gunung Sewu karst region, Central Java. (Photo by author) 67 Two local men pointing into the landscape, near Kradenan, Central Java. (Posted on Facebook, 21 February 2018, photograph by Pak Bedjo [used with permission]) 74 Room ‘Absence and Memory’ at the MMDH (Archive MMDH) 95 View looking over Hyde Park North, 1937, City of Sydney Archives: A-00006639 115 Tony Albert, Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall, 2015, Installation view, Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy of the artist and City of Sydney 124 The media interview survivors of Srebrenica’s genocide inside the warehouse where thirty-five coffins in Potočari warehouse await burial on 11 July 2018. (Photo by author) 200



List of Figures

Fig. 10.2

Fig. 10.3 Fig. 11.1 Fig. 11.2 Fig. 11.3 Fig. 11.4 Fig. 12.1 Fig. 12.2 Fig. 12.3

Fikret Alić standing behind barbed wire at Trnopolje concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina, video footage taken on 6 August 1992 by ITN News. (Photo published in Time magazine, 17 August 1992) Fikret Alić posing behind a fence in the same position he was photographed/filmed on 6 August 1992 by ITN News. (Photo by The Sun, 31 July 2012) Hamani denies involvement in the massacre. Film still, Algéries, histoires à ne pas dire (Lledo 2006) Naïri and Kheïr-Eddine discussing communal separation in the tunnel. Film still (Lledo 2006) Kheïr-Eddine standing in the ruins of La Calère. Film still (Lledo 2006) Tchitchi looking at the iconic Port of Oran. Film still (Lledo 2006) Tuigi externalising the trauma of becoming a trokosi. Film still (Like Cotton Twines 2016) The razor blade, framed in a close shot to evoke empathic distress. Film still (Grass between my Lips 2008) The motionless body of Tuigi after the procedure. Film still (Like Cotton Twines 2016)

205 212 227 228 230 232 251 254 255


Acknowledging Trauma in a Global Context: Narrative, Memory and Place Amy L. Hubbell, Sol Rojas-Lizana, Natsuko Akagawa, and Annie Pohlman

In all cultures, all languages, and all places, humans suffer trauma. The ways in which we remember and acknowledge that experience, however, often depend on the tools individual cultures provide. This book examines the complex relationship between trauma, memory, place, and narrative in diverse global contexts. We examine the stories told about the places—real or imagined—where trauma has been inflicted, the types of traumatic stories that we are able to tell in certain places, and also how confrontation with place shapes the memories of trauma. We focus on how traumatic memory is articulated in diverse and decentred cultural contexts in an effort to understand how trauma resounds beyond specific cultures. Rather than being quieted, traumatic memory, both individual and collective, from survivors, witnesses, readers, viewers, and tourists, is amplified in the spaces where trauma is recounted and memorialised. We examine a range

A. L. Hubbell (*) • S. Rojas-Lizana • N. Akagawa • A. Pohlman The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




of narrative forms including fiction, documentary film, memorial museums and monuments, and survivor testimony, from places across six continents to analyse how narratives of traumatic memory are shaped in, and by, those places.1 To contextualise the diverse forms of memory explored here, in our case studies we embrace the paradigm shift occurring in the social sciences that uncovers and celebrates local and marginalised knowledges. Following this line of thought, we draw attention to the importance of understanding trauma within its contested contexts, sites or places, and how the movements and transactions between places shape our memories and the narratives we produce. In this first chapter, we introduce each of the contributions and the contexts, which span places in Asia, Australia, North and South America, the Pacific, Africa, and Europe, in an effort to make peripheral experiences visible. The authors in this book examine a breadth of narrative forms and variously take up intimate, hidden, collective and media-driven stories that attempt to memorialise traumatic events.

Trauma, Memorial, Narrative, and Place Trauma results when violence cannot be accommodated, happens suddenly, and is re-experienced in unexpected and uncontrolled ways (Caruth 1996, p. 2). The traumas addressed in this volume are both broad-­reaching incidents embedded in cultural memory such as slavery, wars, dictatorships, and genocide, and intimate events such as domestic violence, murder, and torture. To cope with the unpredictable nature of trauma, victims have long been encouraged to narrate their experience as a way to restore and control traumatic memory. Jeffrey C. Alexander explains in ‘Toward a Theory of Cultural Trauma’ that dealing with broad-reaching traumas requires ‘finding—through public acts of commemoration, cultural representation, and public political struggle—some collective means for undoing repression and allowing the pent-up emotions of loss and mourning to be expressed’ (2004, p. 7). In other words, narration is only part of the process of recovery; acknowledgement needs to take place for healing and resolution. In the case of traumatic events that shape national history, memorials and artistic representations are symbolic forms that accommodate painful memory. Memorial in this book refers to a place dedicated to the commemoration of traumatic memories. Some authors make the distinction between



memorial as the specific location where atrocities were committed, and sites of memory as places dedicated to their remembrance. We have left the definition wide as each case brings forth situated understandings of place. In some cases, memorials are ‘sites of conscience’ because they promote the historical perspective of the marginalised and victims, showing what official history would not address. Sometimes imagined sites are created and imbued with memory because no marker can be found to articulate specific acts of trauma. In other cases, a physical space gives visibility to memories of extreme suffering, sometimes within the framework of national discourses of the past, and at other times within small communities where memorials are created and maintained by locals. Memorials provide a location for public acknowledgement, as they attempt to contain, reconcile, and repair indelible wounds. Memorials and memory museums in this sense stand in the gaps where trauma occurred by offering a physically defined space to an often non-specifically situated location of terror. These sites provide space for reflection on the experience of suffering, they can coherently frame trauma, and can be visited in ways that evoke understanding and raise awareness of past injustice now situated in present discourses (see, for example, Young 1993, 2016; Bicknell et al. 2019). As some of the authors in this volume explore, memorials and memory museums preserve traumatic history with both short- and long-term objectives. First, they aim to recognise the human right to memories which are often denied to persecuted people. As part of the systemic effort of subjugation and to justify the use of violence, their memories were sometimes ignored, denied, or distorted. On a fundamental level, these traumas happened because of the belief that the ultimate expression of sovereignty resides ‘in the power and the capacity to dictate who may live and who must die’ (Mbembe 2003, p.  11). The second objective of memorials is to symbolically ‘compensate’ the victims and survivors, by honouring the memory through tribute and visibility. In the long-term, these sites seek to involve people who were not directly affected by the trauma, those engaged with what LaCapra calls ‘secondary memory’ (1998, p. 20), calling them to commit in the construction of a just and pacific society that promotes a solid culture of human rights (Estévez 2018). Acknowledging trauma is foundational to that goal. This volume seeks to examine the ways in which memorials can engage individuals to collaboratively raise visibility of suffering.



The narratives we examine take many forms, from the guest books in a memory museum (Rojas-Lizana) to the direct recorded testimony of survivors and witnesses, both first- and second-hand accounts of the horrific (Pohlman, Akagawa, Wilkes, Hubbell, Evans, Stevens), as well as fictional accounts of historical and personal traumas (Hayes, Lotsu, La Caze). Sometimes those accounts are raw and unfiltered, fragmented and barely comprehensible, and at other times, there are rehearsed, repeated, and crafted accounts that relate both accepted national versions of historical traumas and minor personalised accounts that would otherwise be overlooked. Sometimes trauma is fictionalised or artistically represented through literature or film so that truth can emerge publicly, at other times, documentary and journalistic genres’ painstaking attempt to report the horrible ‘truth’. This volume explores diverse spaces in which trauma was experienced and remembered, from national, geographical, and cultural contexts. These are tangible places (a tunnel which once separated Arab and European quarters in Oran), scenes of historic traumatic events (sites of colonisation, prisons, and slavery), or places that have been expunged or have been deliberately made inaccessible (a forest where a massacre occurred, or a city rebuilt after its destruction by bombings). Spaces may be represented only as ruinous monuments and leftover markers of what used to be (a mountain of rubble where houses once stood), yet sometimes those spaces are repurposed to reflect on the history contained within them (a memorial in a city centre). They may be places to which returns can be made and are in themselves the embodiment of traumatic memory. They may also be places that exist only in memory or places that stand in for inaccessible locations. Some of these spaces are transformed by their visitors (memory museums made into pilgrimage sites). Sometimes space is a poetically or visually evoked encounter in literature, film, artistic work, or performance. Place in all such forms activates memory in survivors and witnesses and has the potential to transmit such memory to others. Place can both amplify and dissipate the memory of trauma. Pierre Nora conceived of ‘lieux de mémoire’, as the places ‘where memory crystallizes and secretes itself’ (1989, p. 7); however, these places are constructs, ‘created by a play of memory and history,’ ambiguous sites that come to be invested with ‘a symbolic aura’ (1989, p. 19). While crystallised forms of memory are examined in this volume, the places of memory studied are not static locations. They are transforming, growing, and adapting to the discourses emerging around them. They do not arise from



the disappearance of memory but from the urgent and obstinate presence of trauma. Sites of memory in this study do not only serve as places of remembrance, but also as sites that validate, denounce, compensate, and fulfil a duty to honour the victims. These sites contain divergent and contested memories that are not always shared by the imagined communities within which they are inserted.

Visibility and Acknowledgement, Ruins, and Right to Memory Recognition and acknowledgement in the interdependent relationships of traumatic narrative, memory, and place are central to this volume. By recognition, we address the political question of who may make claims to the experience and memory of trauma within particular sites. Recognition and acknowledgement emerge through monuments, markers, images, and preserved testimonies that can be disseminated or experienced by those who do not encounter the trauma first-hand. Within the often highly contested interstices between personal or community claims to traumatic memory, and the larger memorial cultures of societal symbolic and political significance, there are manifold struggles over whose trauma can be seen and whose cannot. These tensions are frequently situated at sites where physical ruins remain, whether visible or hidden. At the heart of this relationship between traumatic narrative, recognition, acknowledgement, and visibility is the inherent claim of testimony. As Margaretta Jolly clarifies, ‘what initiates the transformation of story into testimony is the context of claim. This claim may be general, appealing for recognition or empathy, or it may be specific, setting out a crime or abuse, something for which judgment and justice are required’ (2014, p.  10). Testimony—in oral, textual, artistic, or other forms—creates an affective and ethical dialectic between traumatic narrative and reception, that is, an acknowledgement and recognition of trauma. It is this claim, indeed demand, for a response which defines the inherently political speech acts of bearing witness to and giving testimony about traumatic experience (see Coady 1992; Lackey and Sosa 2006; Bufacchi 2013; Moran 2018). There is always, therefore, either an explicit interlocutor or audience for such speech acts, whose empathetic engagement is sought (LaCapra 2001; Gilmore 2003). This demand for engagement and acknowledgement, however, is fraught; it requires the reader/listener to



move from the position of voyeur or tourist, to a position of obligation, to bear witness, to respond to this interpellation in some way (Harlow 1987; Beverley 1989; Oliver 2001, 2004; Dussel 2013). Indeed, the claim for acknowledgement highlights the fundamental establishment of a social relationship in the act of giving testimony; the relationship founded through witnessing and the ‘response-ability’ that witnessing demands (Oliver 2001; see also Moore and Swanson 2018). Testimony’s ability to claim recognition and acknowledgement of trauma, however, is very much exposed to the politics of whose pain is or can be visible, and whose is not. Some stories and images may traverse transnational networks of sympathetic and engaged audiences around the world to have powerful impacts on public opinion, or persuade distant spectators to give time or money, or to demand redress; most do not. As Gillian Whitlock (2014, p.  89) explains, these networks rely on a very ‘fragile affective economy’ (see also Whitlock 2007). Networks of humanitarian benevolence driven by momentary pity or compassion rarely move beyond spectatorship of others’ pain; at the end of the day, spectators remain disinterested (Whitlock 2014). Judith Butler’s work on whose lives are ‘grievable’ (Butler 2004, 2009) helps to illuminate the vicissitudes that traumatic narratives encounter in their claims to make visible the lives and stories of others. For Butler, while all lives are precarious and vulnerable, only certain lives ‘will be highly protected, and the abrogation of their claims to sanctity will be sufficient to mobilize the forces of war. Other lives will not find such fast and furious support and will not even qualify as “grievable”’ (2004, p.  32). When examining which lives are ‘grievable’, Butler (2004, p. 20), echoing Fanon (1963), asks the revealing question of who counts as human? By exploring cases from across the globe, this volume provides a new examination of how the local context always shapes the memory and narrative of trauma. At the epistemological level, the visibility and acknowledgement of marginalised memories challenge several aspects of mainstream approaches to memory in Western societies (Maldonado-­ Torres 2008; de Sousa Santos 2014). These memories rescue and promote a view of history from the victims’ perspectives (Pohlman, Akagawa, Rojas-Lizana), highlighting everyday experiences and showing what mainstream history ignores. Despite very specific and localised memories of trauma, memorial cultures are shaped by similar forces globally. There is something uniquely human across all cultures, regardless of the political context, in the way



that suffering endures in memory, remains embedded in place, and is transmitted to those who care to see or hear it. The analyses presented in this book show us that, whether through community-made memorials to victims of fire-bombings in Japan (Akagawa), or the memory of the Gestapo headquarters in Vienna (Wilkes), or the efforts to reconstruct a massacre at the end of the Algerian War (Hubbell), the constant question remains of who can claim traumatic experience, which narratives are able to emerge, and among those, which are heard and memorialised.

Volume Overview In this volume, different places in which trauma has been experienced, and a variety of forms in which memories of trauma have emerged, been suppressed or re-imagined are considered in relation to a broad range of geo-­ political contexts. In Part I, ‘Memorial Spaces’, the contributors are particularly concerned with highlighting the central role of place in contexts that emphasise the nexus between memory and politics. In Part II, ‘Sites of Trauma’, the authors investigate physical and imagined sites of trauma that attempt to give shape to individual and collective traumatic memory. Part III, ‘Traumatic Representations’, emphasises the importance of narrative forms, primarily film and journalism, that memorialise trauma. Part I: Memorial Spaces The four chapters in Part I explore examples in Vietnam (in relation to Australia), Japan, Indonesia, and Chile. In each of these cases, significant traumatic episodes have taken place but the physical sites of traumatic memory have been intentionally ignored or denied (Logan, Pohlman); or where the partial memorialisation of traumatic memory has only recently been possible (Akagawa, Rojas-Lizana). These chapters are particularly interested in political constructions of collective traumatic memory and the ways individual and grassroots memory have challenged official state narratives to provide places for remembering. As Akagawa emphasises in the case of the decimation of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in World War II, individual traumatic memory of such events is not forgotten even when its expression is constrained by authorities’ intent to shape different national narratives. Local memory centres provide physical space where survivors and witnesses can relive—or find relief from—their



traumatic memories. Similarly, Rojas-Lizana examines visitor responses to the Museo de la Memoria (Museum of Memory) in Chile to explore how visitors do or do not share the traumatic memory of others. Both chapters point to the power of individuals’ traumatic memories when access to public spaces is made available, to challenge dominant national narrative. In Indonesia, as Pohlman reveals, sites of trauma are clearly remembered by survivors and witnesses despite the fact that these locations, and any public memorialisation, continue to be suppressed and declared non-­ existent. Logan examines a transnational case of suppression, where the national narrative in one country has been used to deflect attention from the traumatic memories experienced in another. In each case, asymmetrical power relations have determined the recognition of the existence of places of traumatic memory. In Part I, each study explores elements of visibility and acknowledgement which emerge through the ‘obstinate memory’ and the consciously political ‘memory work’ of everyday people whose direct and inherited experiences were previously negated or ignored. In some cases, this is due to limited or non-existent legal justice regarding the crimes committed by dictatorships. Pohlman documents contemporary efforts by Indonesian survivors to locate and document the sites of mass graves of victims of the 1965 ‘political genocide’. Similarly, in discursively exploring the visitor book of the Museum of Memory, Rojas-Lizana finds that everyday people transform their interaction with the Museum into moments of reflection, healing, and conversation with the victims whose bodies have never been found. Akagawa shows how official and international discourse centred on the atomic bomb have marginalised the local memory of trauma. The emergence of visibility and acknowledgement aims at exposing injustices and atrocities, and at finding closure for victims, survivors, and to some extent, even perpetrators. When unacknowledged, these traumas remain an open wound affecting a communities’ ability to coexist harmoniously. The chapters in Part I evidence the development of resourceful and resilient ways of interacting with places of memory, informing areas of research that have remained relatively unexplored in global discussion. Part II: Sites of Trauma How can trauma be represented and acknowledged in ways that lead towards healing rather than harm? Sometimes art fills that role, as in Jarrod Hayes’ study of Moi, Tituba, sorcière noire de Salem (I, Tituba, Black Witch



of Salem) by Caribbean author Maryse Condé in the context of recent political debate on race in the United States. Here we see that sometimes centuries must pass before the horror can be accommodated, but the effects of cultural trauma endure and will be embedded into our current politics until a time when those wounds can be sufficiently confronted. Hayes examines how black skin itself has become a site of trauma, long silenced, recently highly mediatised, and not yet healed. History and art coalesce in Condé’s work to account for the suffering of those who did not matter and could not speak during slavery and its aftermath. Geoff Wilkes approaches this question by engaging with Ilse Aichinger’s highly personal accounts of Austria’s role in the genocide of the Jews during the Holocaust to examine representations of place across time. Wilkes demonstrates how Aichinger’s memory of Nazi-inflicted trauma remains embedded in the city long after the horrors have ceased and remains apparent to those who have survived. Aichinger herself turns to watching films, acknowledging that the art of cinema is the best way for her to remember and pay tribute to those who did not survive the Holocaust. Parish and O’Reilly examine physical reminders of trauma in the form of a site dedicated to the official remembrance of World War I in Australia, and to show how the seemingly ‘settled’ nature and narrative of these official sites in fact open up spaces for contention. In the case of Australia, they show how official discourse regarding World War I has rendered other conflicts within the country invisible. Forsdick’s contribution extends this insight by examining how established state-sanctioned memorial practices can generate or sustain tensions in the afterlives of empires. Drawing on the example of two reminders of the nineteenth-century colonialism, he shows how from such ruins alternative narratives can emerge, associated with new critical and poetic approaches to the traumas of the colonial past. Part III: Traumatic Representations In Part III of this book, contributors consider how the unrepresentable pain of trauma and unspeakable memories can emerge through the artistic process, whether it be by filming characters in the shadows or from behind, or depicting ruins while individuals recount memory that does not coincide with what is shown on the screen, or through fragmented narratives interspersed with other languages, gaps, or voids. Film, photography, and writing can all be employed to represent what has remained hidden in the shadows, while ostensibly exposing what can be seen and witnessed. This



is the resistant ‘visible invisibility’ often represented by haunting and ruins in literary and visual texts (Hochberg 2015) when place in its present form is insufficient to contain horrific memory. Through the visual representation of ruins, we see what is often called unspeakable. In documentary, initial witnesses of trauma reconfigure the events, seeing ghostly re-­ enactments on a now devastated landscape, while the listener struggles to imagine these traumas in a place that no longer resonates with what it once was. By contrast, in writing, trauma can be represented as absolute truth in journalism and autobiography or as invention—though sometimes historically accurate. The dilemma of telling the story of mass trauma to a broader community and respecting individual privacy is one that arises in writing as well as in documentary filmmaking. Stevens questions the ethics behind journalism practices which sometimes unwittingly re-inflict trauma on survivors who testify to atrocities, in specifically examining the case of the Bosnian genocide in 1995. In Hubbell’s examination of a documentary exploration of a past massacre, we also see the re-traumatisation of those who testify and the fear of exposure the witnesses must face. Stevens critically questions the reduction of victims to unidimensional survivors without consideration of their past and present contexts, calling on journalists’ practice to recognise more fully the reality of what it is to live a life after atrocity. This would humanise all participants and help with their healing. In addition to the ability of place to amplify trauma, the chapters in this section consider the question of who ‘is allowed’ to testify, and for whom are these traumatic stories being told. Each study focuses on a narrative given by a person deemed capable of speaking and worthy of being recorded and disseminated. Lotsu’s chapter on violence against women in Ghanaian cinema questions the role of director Leila Djansi, as distributor of this history. A native Ghanaian living and working primarily in the United States with a broad distribution network, her work reaches well outside Ghana which raises the question of who forms the audience for these testimonials. In Hubbell’s chapter, the witnesses who testify about a massacre choose to not say, not remember, or not be filmed remembering or speaking about the 1962 murders they witnessed or sometimes only heard about; each witness questions to whom can and should these stories be told. In Evans’ study of the filmic representations of Jon Benet Ramsey’s murder in 1996 and the murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in 1968, we see the privileged position of narrative given to the spectacular murders of a child beauty queen and a nun in the US.  These individual narratives were so



compelling that they garnered a huge amount of media coverage at the time of the events and inspired two films released in 2017. La Caze examines how trauma is represented in the film No (2012), a fictionalised account of the 1988 plebiscite on Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile. La Caze proposes that the opportunity to acknowledge trauma through the media was sacrificed in favour of a narrative of promised happiness in order to convince people, despite their fear, to vote ‘no’ to the continuation of Pinochet’s rule. All chapters in this volume remind us that only some are able and allowed to speak. The silenced ones, those who did not survive, can only be accounted for through imagined, reconstructed accounts created by witnesses—loved ones or strangers—who remember those who are silenced by trauma. Not all can be heard and inevitably some, if not many or most, will be forgotten. It is in part our goal to understand how those who suffered can best be acknowledged so that those horrors are not reproduced.

Note 1. This volume arose from a symposium held at The University of Queensland in July 2018 with support from the School of Languages and Cultures Strategic Research Fund.

References Alexander, JC 2004, ‘Toward a theory of cultural trauma’, in Alexander, JC, Eyerman, R, Giesen, B, Smelser, NJ & Sztompka, P (eds.), Cultural trauma and collective identity, University of California Press, Berkeley, pp. 1–30. Beverley, J 1989, ‘The margin at the centre: On testimonio’, Modern Fiction Studies, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 11–28. Bicknell, J, Judkins, J & Korsmeyer, C (eds.) 2019, Philosophical perspectives on ruins, monuments and memorials, Routledge, New York. Bufacchi, V 2013, ‘Knowing violence: Testimony, trust and truth’, Revue Internationale de Philosophie, vol. 67, no. 265, pp. 277–91. Butler, J 2004, Precarious life: The powers of mourning and violence, Verso, London. Butler, J 2009, Frames of war: When is life grievable?, Verso, New York and London. Caruth, C 1996, Unclaimed experience: Trauma, narrative, and history, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Coady, CAJ 1992, Testimony: A philosophical study, Oxford University Press, Oxford. de Sousa Santos, B 2014, Epistemologies of the south justice against epistemicide, Paradigm Publishers, Boulder.



Dussel, E 2013, Ethics of liberation in the age of globalization and exclusion, Duke University Press, Durham. Estévez, FJ 2018, ‘La memoria como un derecho ciudadano’, in Basaurem, M & Estévez, FJ (eds.), Fue (in)evitable el golpe? Derechos humanos: memoria, museo y contexto, Editorial Cuarto Propio, Santiago, pp. 121–35. Fanon, F 1963, The wretched of the earth, trans. C Farrington, Grove, New York. Gilmore, L 2003, ‘Jurisdictions: I, Rigoberta Menchu, The Kiss, and scandalous self-representation in the age of memoir and trauma’, Signs, vol. 28, no. 2, pp. 695–718. Harlow, B 1987, Resistance literature, Methuen, New York. Hochberg, G 2015, Visual occupations: Violence and visibility in a conflict zone, Duke University Press, Durham. Jolly, M 2014, ‘Introduction: Life/rights narrative in action’, in Jensen, M & Jolly, M (eds.), We shall bear witness: Life narratives and human rights, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI, pp. 3–24. LaCapra, D 1998, History and memory after Auschwitz, Cornell University Press, Ithaca. LaCapra, D 2001, Writing history, writing trauma, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Lackey, J & Sosa, E (eds.) 2006, The epistemology of testimony, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Maldonado-Torres, N 2008, Against war: Views from the underside of modernity, Duke University Press, Durham. Mbembe, A 2003, ‘Necropolitics’, Public Culture, vol. 15, pp. 11–40. Moore, A & Swanson, E (eds.) 2018, Witnessing torture: Perspectives of torture survivors and human rights workers, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Moran, R 2018, The exchange of words: Speech, testimony, and intersubjectivity, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Nora, P 1989, ‘Between memory and history: Les lieux de mémoire’, Representations, no. 26, pp. 7–24. Oliver, K 2001, Witnessing: Beyond recognition, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Oliver, K 2004, ‘Witnessing and testimony’, Parallax, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 78–87. Whitlock, G 2007, Soft weapons: Autobiography in transit, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Whitlock, G 2014, ‘Protection’, in Jensen, M & Jolly, M (eds.), We shall bear witness: Life narratives and human rights, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, pp. 80–99. Young, J 1993, The texture of memory: Holocaust memorials and meaning, Yale University Press, New Haven. Young, J 2016, The stages of memory: Reflections on memorial art, loss, and the spaces between, University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst.


Memorial Spaces


Long Tan, Coral-Balmoral and Binh Ba: Remembered, Unremembered and Disremembered Battlefields from Australia’s Vietnam War William Logan

The past few years have seen a burgeoning of studies about how difficult events in the past have been remembered and memorialised, or forgotten—even deliberately disremembered—and their physical marks on the ground left to disappear. As Keir Reeves and I remarked in our edited book Places of Pain and Shame: Dealing with ‘Difficult Heritage’ (2009, p.  1), ‘Most societies have their scars of history resulting from involvement in war and civil unrest or adherence to belief systems based on intolerance, racial discrimination or ethnic hostilities’. The scope for research is vast, varied and complex. Some war events, notably battles and prisoner of war camps, fit this difficult category. This chapter focuses on the former, prompted by field observation that some battles and battlefields take on iconic status to one

W. Logan (*) Deakin University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




side of the conflict or the other and play a vital and continuing role in the reconciliation and other international relations between former belligerents, while others are simply relegated to the past. In order to explore the reasons for this, my chapter looks at battlefields from the Vietnam War (1955–1975), where Australian troops directly engaged enemy forces— the Viet Cong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA). A minor ally of the United States in that war, Australia stationed its troops in Phuoc Thuy Province with the role of securing the eastern advances to Saigon (today’s Ho Chi Minh City), against incursions by the VC from their main base at Minh Dam on the coastal peninsula to the east and the 33 NVA Regiment based in the north of the province. Several battles between Australian and enemy troops occurred, helping to make Vietnam a country that has more than its share of scars of history. Among these, three battles have been selected—Long Tan, Coral-Balmoral and Binh Ba—because of the different ways in which they have been accepted into the Australian national narrative. The Battle of Long Tan has come to represent the whole Vietnam War for most Australians, whereas the Battles of Coral-Balmoral and Binh Ba are largely forgotten— indeed disremembered in the latter case—even though they were probably more important in terms of military outcome. The chapter aims to explain this divergence in remembrance by considering how the commemoration and memorialisation processes operate, who leads the processes, and for what purposes. The chapter is based on a variety of sources and methods. These include the analysis of war writings by former combatants and others over the almost 50 years since Australia joined the Vietnam war, and a project I led on the theme of ‘Australians at war’ for the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage that involved focus group discussions in Canberra and Melbourne (Logan et al. 2005). My field observations in Phuoc Thuy Province provided other data, as did the interviews I conducted over the past decade with some of the actors, both Australian and Vietnamese, and both in Australia and Vietnam, including some of the 30 or so Vietnam veterans now living in and around Vung Tau, the principal town in the area. The chapter also draws on two of my other works on Vietnam: one written with Professor Andrea Witcomb dealing with Long Tan and issues of reconciliation and historical justice (Logan and Witcomb 2013); and the other focusing on heritage-management issues at Dien Bien Phu and Long Tan (Logan 2016).



The chapter also builds on my earlier discussion of key concepts in the Australians at War Thematic Study and an article on bushfires in Victoria that was published in a special ‘catastrophes’ issue of the journal National Identities in 2015. That article seeks to understand how the processes of commemoration and memorialisation operate in relation to bushfires. Clearly there are similarities between bushfires and war as catastrophes, including in the Australian instance how they contribute to the construction of national identity. The article starts by noting that: Dealing with the suffering caused by catastrophes, whether they are wars, genocides or terrorist atrocities, tornadoes or floods, usually involves moving beyond individual memories to some form of collective commemoration and memorialisation of the human and environmental loss that has occurred. Laying to rest the bodies of the victims and remembering their lives in eulogies and obituaries are common immediate responses; in the longer term, annual services, pilgrimages and the writing of books are common forms of commemoration, while epitaphs, cairns, shrines and other monuments are erected to memorialise the dead or the event and place in which they died. (Logan 2015, p. 155)

Thus, commemoration is how nations and other collectives deal with the trauma caused by catastrophes and sometimes commemoration activities are conducted at the place where the catastrophe occurred. Memorialisation follows when particular sites of commemoration are selected for the erection of physical reminders of human loss and trauma. Since there are often few physical structures left after battles and bushfires that might serve as aides-mémoire to a forgetful public, memorialisation usually means the creation of new monuments.

Memorialising Long Tan The story of the August 1967 battle has been retold in many places. Briefly, Long Tan was a small village surrounded by rubber plantations and close to Nui Dat where the Australian Task Force arrived in May 1967 to set up its base. The villagers had been driven out by the Americans (Burstall 1993, p.  70). The Australians had scarcely landed in Vietnam when the battle occurred—essentially a surprise affair, the result of a Viet Cong ambush in a rubber plantation. Seven regular soldiers and 11 National Servicemen were killed; 16 died instantly (15 in the rubber plantation, 1  in another ambush at a nearby bridge) and 2 died later in



hospital. All the casualties were repatriated and, since Australia has no national cemetery (unlike Arlington in the USA or Fréjus in France), they were buried in their own states. The men were aged 19–22 years. In the years following the Battle of Long Tan, many of the Australian troops fell into a desperate silence and depression, a condition that worsened for many on their return to Australia when they received hostile treatment from some elements of the public and a perceived belittling by the national government and the Returned Soldiers’ League. However, some took action by taking recourse to processes of commemoration and memorialisation. During his unit’s second tour of duty in 1969, Sergeant Major James Cruickshank of the 6th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (6RAR) decided to erect a cross on the Long Tan battle site to pay tribute to the 18 comrades who had perished. The cross was raised in the middle of the rubber plantation in time for the third anniversary of the battle on 18 August 1969. The original cross was subsequently removed and effectively lost for 20 years. Although the Australian and Vietnamese accounts of its recovery differ, it ended up in the Dong Nai Museum in Bien Hoa, a city north of Saigon (Logan and Witcomb 2013). A replacement cross was made for the Long Tan memorial site. The original cross was loaned to the Australian War Memorial from August 2012 to April 2013 after which it was returned to the Dong Nai Museum. I return to the story of the cross later in the chapter.

Unremembering Coral-Balmoral The second battlefield case study is Coral-Balmoral named after two Fire Support Patrol Bases that were less than five kilometres apart and 20 kilometres north of Bien Hoa. The battle here was fought intermittently between 12 May and 6 June 1968 and was, according to the Australian War Memorial, Australia’s ‘largest, most sustained and arguably most hazardous battle of the Vietnam War’ (AWM 2018). A combined force of over 2500 Australians and New Zealanders was  involved, initially in response to North Vietnamese attacks on the Coral base and later on at Balmoral. A combination of infantry, tanks, artillery and mortars repelled the enemy, but not before 26 Australian soldiers were killed—11 on the first night of fighting—and 100 wounded. More than 300 North Vietnamese soldiers perished.



The battlefield has reverted to rubber plantations (McKay 2003, pp. 158–59). Despite the battle’s length and toll of dead and wounded, there is nothing at the site today to show for Australia’s engagement here other than a few bomb craters among the trees. The battle itself is simply unremembered. On the other side, however, the Vietnamese government constructed a large monument in honour of the Viet Cong ‘martyrs’ where Coral used to be located.

Disremembering Binh Ba Binh Ba is five kilometres north of Nui Dat, located on what, in 1969, was designated Route 2 (now National Route 56). It was a small rubber plantation village of around 3000 farmers and plantation workers (O’Neill 1968, pp. 30, 66; McKay 2003, p. 103). The road system was well laid out and lined with about 40 carefully maintained houses. There were also a school and a Catholic church (Elias and Broadbent 1980). The area was officially, if not very effectively, under the control of the South Vietnamese army—the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARNV)—whose post was half a kilometre to the north. It is unclear what strategy, if any, lay behind two Australian armoured vehicles being fired upon as they passed through the village on the morning of 6 June 1969 (Ekins 2012, pp. 211–13). But it led to an Australian intervention ‘to destroy the enemy in Binh Ba’ (Ekins 2012, p.  213). Australian infantry, armour, and helicopters of the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR), were called in to prosecute Operation Hammer, as the Battle of Binh Ba was officially known. They fought a much larger force comprising NVA Regiment 33 and VC on 6 June with clean-up operations on 7 and 8 June. This proved to be the largest tank battle since World War II. There was also sustained close-quarter house-­ to-­house fighting. Ekins (2012, p. 213) notes that ‘None of the Australians had any experience in street fighting in towns, and they faced the operation with reluctance’. The NVA/VC strategy clearly failed and at least 107 of their soldiers were killed, six wounded and eight taken as prisoners of war, while another 28 male villagers were detained (Ekins 2012, p. 224). It is claimed that the NVA and VC soldiers were disguising themselves in civilian clothes taken from the abandoned houses, so they could mingle with the villagers and escape (McKay 2003, p. 111). In fact, most village men were farmers by day and VC soldiers by night. On the Australian side, by comparison, the



casualties were light: one killed and ten wounded (McKay and Nichols 2001, p. 212). The grossly disproportionate death tolls and some difficult questions raised concerning the Australian troop’s actions, which I will explain later, have led to Binh Ba being actively disremembered.

Australian State Involvement The role of the Australian state in memorialisation and commemorative practices in the case of Long Tan was embedded in the complex diplomatic context that prevailed in the aftermath of the Vietnam War (Logan and Witcomb 2013, p. 265). By the time of Australia’s withdrawal from Vietnam in 1971 there was a growing consensus that Australia had a heavy responsibility for what had happened to the Vietnamese people. This began to influence foreign policy regarding Vietnam under Australian Labor Party Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam (1972–1975). Whitlam’s government established diplomatic links with Vietnam, opening an embassy in Hanoi in 1973—one of the earliest Western embassies in the city—and permitted South Vietnamese refugees to enter Australia. To an extent, this sense of atonement cut across political lines and Whitlam’s policies were continued by his successor, Malcolm Fraser, prime minister of the conservative Liberal–Country Party coalition (1975–1983). Fraser was later to explain in his memoirs that ‘we’ve just got an ethical obligation. We were fighting alongside these people in Vietnam’ (Fraser and Simons 2010, p. 420). Fraser therefore increased support for refugees and backed Vietnam’s admission into the United Nations in 1977. Later, when Labor was re-elected under Prime Minister Bob Hawke (1983–1991), foreign aid to Vietnam was restored. In his memoirs, Hawke explained his thinking on this: Australia had been party to the emergence of the present turmoil. … On coming to government I believed we owed it to the people of the region and to Australia to play a positive role in attempting to secure a saner future. (Hawke 1994, p. 223)

Similarly, the ALP government under Paul Keating (PM 1991–1996) increased economic aid in 1992, adding education and training packages to the mix as well as urban planning and heritage protection in Hanoi (Logan 2020).



Connections between local Vietnamese and Australians were increasing in other spheres, too. Of particular importance in the bridge-building process was the Australian Vietnam Volunteers Resource Group (AVVRG), a non-governmental organisation established in 1990 (Logan and Witcomb 2013, p. 262). Working with the Vietnam Union of Friendship and the Long Dat District People’s Committee, it undertook several projects needed by the local community, such as an orphanage, kindergarten, medical centre, and dental clinic. In 2002, AVVRG representatives and Australian consular personnel were invited by the Vietnamese authorities to a ceremony where the management of the Long Tan site and the cross was officially handed over to the AVVRG. Thus, the AVVRG, rather than the consulate, became ‘official keeper of the cross’ (ADCC n.d.). This arrangement seemed to work well for both sides: for the Australian government, it avoided the necessity of official negotiations and red tape, while it also avoided putting the Vietnamese government in the difficult situation of ceding control of this piece of territory to a foreign state.

Vietnamese State Involvement Vietnamese veterans of the battles and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam have, of course, different motivations for wanting to remember the war and the three sites of battle. Vietnamese commemoration of dead NVA and VC soldiers occurs at state-run war cemeteries and a few memorial sites, including Binh Ba. The main place for memorialising the Viet Cong is, however, at Minh Dam, site of the VC’s secret base in the Long Hai hills on the peninsula east of Vung Tau. Added complexity stems from the fact that the Vietnam War was both an international and a civil war. Shadows of the civil war continue to be felt today because the winning side still controls the reunified state. The national government enforces adherence (at least publicly) to the state’s official narrative, fails to recognise officially that losses occurred on both sides of the civil war, and refuses to grant the supporters of the southern Republic of Vietnam the right to memorialise their war dead (Nguyen-Vo 2005, p. 160; Schwenkel 2006, p. 71; Logan and Witcomb 2013, p. 271). Unsurprisingly, the Vietnamese government is very sensitive about former enemies having formal memorials on its soil. This was well understood by Australia, an internal diplomatic communication in 2002 from Australia’s Hanoi embassy to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra advising that:



Australia’s handling of the issues will continue to require a deft touch for some time to come. The Vietnamese side appears happy to continue ­permitting Australian access to the site as long we maintain a low-key, largely unofficial, and above all respectful approach. (DFAT 2002)

As previously noted, in 2002 the non-governmental AVVRG had been permitted to organise commemorative ceremonies at Long Tan. After further discussions, the local Vietnamese authorities in 2006 allowed the Australian Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City to take charge of ceremonies on behalf of the Australia government. In fact, Australia’s military attaché based in the Australian Embassy in Hanoi did most of the organisation, with AVVRG providing the on-the-spot caretaker in the form of Graeme (‘Breaker’) Cusack, former 1st Platoon Commander 6RAR who has lived in the area since 2004. But although the AVVRG looks after the site, the local Vietnamese police still control access to it. The ceremonies were permitted, however, only under a set of protocols designed to limit proceedings tightly. No medals or uniforms were to be worn (although this was relaxed from 2007), no flags were to be raised or displayed, no music was to be played, and any speeches had to be low-key and short. Groups visiting the site could not be larger than 20–30. Visitors were required to obtain a permit from the local police. Tour companies were therefore unable to engage in largescale tourism at the site and permanent signage could not be put up to interpret the site’s significance. Despite these restrictions, the number of visitors at the two ceremonies grew to more than 600 by 2015, suggesting a looming need to renegotiate the protocols. At Coral-Balmoral, as at Long Tan, Australians wanting to visit the battlefield must also obtain formal approval at the local police station. Visitor numbers are few as there is little for Australians to see and no ceremonies are conducted. Similarly, there is no Australian memorial at Binh Ba and few visitors. By contrast there are regular Vietnamese veteran reunions at Binh Ba in a well-maintained memorial compound containing numerous epitaphs, a Temple to the Martyrs where the names and home villages of the dead NVA soldiers are inscribed on memorial walls, and a mass burial place that is covered these days with flowering plants forming the Vietnamese star. In 2011 I went to the memorial compound with a local Vietnamese guide, Khong Quoc Thuan, to observe not only the place but also his interpretation of it. He recalled (or perhaps had heard) that Vietnamese newspapers in 1969 expressed outrage about the ‘Ba



Binh atrocities committed by Australian soldiers’, especially the burial of the Vietnamese dead in a mass grave, although he conceded that this was probably necessary because the climate and wartime context made speed necessary. The official interpretation given in the compound’s meeting room, however, does not portray the site as one of defeat but one of honourable sacrifice. The mass grave at Binh Ba has been identified as a highly important heritage site by the Vietnamese authorities and is carefully managed. In fact, most of the bodies in the mass grave have been returned to war cemeteries or family plots in the North. The only Australian presence at the site is references on plaques to ‘Uc’ (Vietnamese for ‘Australia’) as ‘US running dog’ and a few unofficial letters by and photos of visiting Australian veterans pinned up in the meeting room. The letters express the hope for reconciliation, peace and harmony.

Fitting the Battles into Australian and Vietnamese National Narratives Long Tan Vietnam’s Long Tan gradually became caught up in the nation-building efforts of successive Australian governments. Prime ministers have taken a personal lead in this, seeking to shape, or more properly, reshape the nation in their favoured mould (Logan and Witcomb 2013, p.  267). Tapping into popular sentiment in favour of honouring fallen soldiers— always in foreign lands and seas in Australia’s case—prime ministers have made numerous visits to battlefields over the last 20  years, setting up memorials and encouraging pilgrimage tourism: John Howard at Gallipoli and Long Tan, Paul Keating at Hellfire Pass on the Thai-Burma Railway, Kevin Rudd at Kokoda in Papua-New Guinea, Julia Gillard in Korea, and Tony Abbott at Villers-Bretonneux on the Western Front. Australian governments have had a particular long-standing interest in Anzac Cove at Gallipoli, a World War I Turkish site that has acquired legendary status not only for the battle’s huge death toll but also because of the way in which Australians (and New Zealanders, hence ‘Anzacs’) were seen to have displayed key qualities of their national character, notably mateship and determination. Australian governments, aided by the military services and veteran bureaucracy in Canberra, have fitted Long Tan



into this Anzac mould. An ABC News item at the time of the Long Tan Day on 18 August 2016 brings a David and Goliath interpretation to the forefront in its banner heading ‘The battle of Long Tan: How 100 Australian soldiers held off 2000 Viet Cong’, before going on to assert that it ‘could have been an Australian military disaster, but it is instead remembered as a decisive victory’ (ABC News 2016). Such bravery was rewarded by the bestowal of Long Tan battle honour in 1983 to the 3rd Cavalry and Royal Australian Regiments (Ekins 2012, p. 815). On the Vietnamese side, Australia’s memorialisation of the Long Tan battle was accepted because it helped attract Australian development aid and business investment. To have allowed foreigners to celebrate a victory over the Vietnamese on Vietnamese soil would not, however, have fitted with the story of the war that the government and military want remembered. So, instead, they portrayed Long Tan as their victory—‘a death blow to the mercenary expeditionary army’ (Ho 1995, p.  280), that proved the VC had the ‘resilient fighting spirit to defeat any enemy, under any conditions’ (Nguyen 2002, p. 183). Coral-Balmoral The Vietnam Battle Honours Committee also decided in 1983 to award the Coral-Balmoral battle honour to the Royal Australian Regiment (RAR), the 1st Armoured Regiment and the 3rd Cavalry Regiment. Twenty-five years later, in 2008, the Honour Title ‘Coral’ was awarded to the RAR’s 102nd Field Battery. For the fiftieth anniversary on 13 May 2018 a commemoration service was held at the Australian Vietnam Forces National Memorial on Anzac Parade in Canberra. An article by David Ellery in the Canberra Times giving background to the service included the sentence: Even after almost four weeks of intense fighting, which had resulted in some of the worst Australian losses of the war, the diggers were still able to discover a common humanity when they came face-to-face with their wounded and captured North Vietnamese Army (NVA) opponents. (Ellery 2018)

Photos showed Australian soldiers treating the wounds of captured VNA men who seemed to be little more than boys. Although there were more than ten times as many Vietnamese as Australians killed, and many buried in mass graves, it has been possible to absorb the Battle of Coral-­Balmoral into the Australian narrative of the noble warrior.



Binh Ba Even though the Binh Ba battle honour was awarded to the same regiments in 1983, the Battle of Binh Ba could not be fitted into the Anzac legend. It seems to have been much more complex and more detailed analysis is needed in order to explain why, if it was a more militarily significant battle than Long Tan, it is ignored in the annual calendar of Australian military celebrations and almost unknown among the Australian general public. Remembrance of the Battle of Binh Ba was muddied in mid-1980 when the Nation Review and an ABC Nationwide current affairs program raised the possibility that there were unnecessary civilian deaths in the rather heavy-handed attack on Binh Ba village. The story was picked up by the Melbourne newspaper, The Age, under the banner ‘Veterans deny massacre’ (Elias and Broadbent 1980). The Nation Review claimed that 50–100 men, women, and children had died in the battle. There is ‘mounting evidence’, it said, ‘to suggest at worst it was a massacre and at the very best an almighty army overkill. The tanks went in about midday and shot everything that moved in the village’ (cited in Elias and Broadbent 1980). This line of criticism was followed up by Terry Burstall in Vietnam: The Australian Dilemma (1993, pp.  213–17), where he comments on the inconsistency in the stated numbers of enemy killed and the lack of a public record on the amount of weapons and equipment captured. Relying on an American report, he suggested that many of the dead may have been unarmed civilians (Burstall 1993, pp. 213–14). The Nation Review and The Age articles and the ABC report led to questions being asked in the Australian parliament. They received an angry response from Vietnamese veterans, many of whom seem to have gone into a state of denial that continues today. When the first histories of Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War appeared, they left out these accusations. The prominent website of the Australia Day Commemoration Committee, which oversees Anzac Day events in Queensland as well as looking after the interests of veterans, still has an article on Ba Binh written by ex-Vietnam colonel, Arthur Burke. Entitled ‘D-Day 25 years on— The battle of Binh Ba’, the article seeks to retrofit Binh Ba into a story of glorious military actions: ‘Twenty-five years after the Allied landing at Normandy on 6 June 1944, another military force also crossed a start line and advanced into history at the small rubber plantation village of Binh Ba in South Vietnam’ (Burke n.d.). Burke portrays some of the horror of the final day of battle, but it is largely a picture of wrongdoing on the other



side. No mention is made of the alleged atrocities wreaked by the Australians on civilians or of the burial of the dead soldiers in a mass grave in front of the primary school. The final volume of the official history of Australia’s involvement in Southeast Asian conflicts from 1948 to 1975 includes a brief paragraph on ‘atrocity claims and counterclaims’ at the end of 30 pages on Binh Ba (Ekins 2012, pp. 210–40). It acknowledges that the dispute has ‘persisted virtually to the present day’ and quotes one veteran, Frank Frost, as saying that ‘there is no evidence to suggest that Australian forces knowingly killed unarmed civilians, let alone conducted a “massacre”’ (Frost 1987, p. 121). There is no analysis of the evidence and yet, in the last line of the caption to a photograph (Ekins 2012, p. 225), the author concludes that ‘The publication of images like this appeared to lend weight to later unsubstantiated allegations that the action in Binh Ba involved the deliberate massacre of innocent villagers’ (Ekins 2012, p. 225).

Changing Times In contrast to Australia’s commemoration and memorialisation at Long Tan, the Vietnamese chose to remember their battle dead away from the battlefield in cemeteries and family homes, although an urn to hold prayer sticks was set up in front of the cross in 2002. Two recent actions, however, have had a major impact on Australian commemoration at the Long Tan memorial site and suggest that the Vietnamese authorities are starting a process of disremembrance of Long Tan from their own side. The fiftieth Long Tan anniversary service planned for 18 August 2016 was cancelled at the last minute on orders from Hanoi and a ban on official ceremonies was instigated that seems to be continuing. The cancellation was initially met with outrage from many veterans and their organisations and apparently Prime Minister Turnbull made top-level contact with Hanoi to seek reconsideration (Broinowski 2016). Australia’s official response was necessarily muted and Veterans’ Affairs minister, Dan Tehan, could do little more than acknowledge that ‘While disappointing, we respect Vietnam’s right as a sovereign nation to determine the nature of commemorations held on its soil’ (The Guardian 2017). The Vietnamese relented to the extent of allowing a small group to meet quietly at the site, but without uniforms, medals or music. The second recent event suggesting the Vietnamese now want to disremember Long Tan was the Vietnamese government’s gifting of the original Long Tan cross to Australian War Memorial in November 2017



(Hunter 2017). The decision was taken in the lead-up to the APEC summit meeting that was about to take place in Vietnam’s port city, Danang (Scott 2017), but was kept secret for a month, one online source quoting the AWM director, Brendan Nelson, as saying that this was due to the sensitivities around the issue (Seniors Newspaper 2017). These events suggest that for the Vietnamese, Long Tan as an Australian memory site is no longer useful. Other mechanisms now exist to ensure good trade links and the Long Tan battle story does not fit the Hanoi government’s narrative. It is more useful to sweep it under the carpet, another move to eliminate the bitter past of the Vietnam War and, most importantly, its civil war elements. This is like the Vietnamese government’s longstanding and still unwavering policy of denying special cemeteries, memorials and regiment-labelled headstones to soldiers who died fighting in the southern army. These policies are open to interpretation: critics say they represent a denial of human rights; others say they are necessary to create a unified nation. They aid forgetting, which does allow people to ‘live their lives and overcome nostalgia for the past or a crippling loss’ (Benton and Cecil 2010, p. 17). On the Australian side, by contrast, Long Tan is not to be forgotten. The Australian Prime Minister  (2015–2018), Malcom Turnbull, welcomed the return of the cross as ‘a great act of generosity’ (Scott 2017). Since official Long Tan Day services now take place only in Australia, at the national parliament and Australian War Memorial, it may be that the main service will take place at the latter where the cross now stands. A few lone voices, such as that of Terry Burstall, have tried to show how Australian actions at Long Tan were ‘much more brutal and repressive’ than generally pictured (1993, p.  73). Richard Broinowski, former Australian Ambassador to the Social Republic of Vietnam 1983–1985, tried to expose the ‘unedifying aspect of Australian military culture—a compulsive need to glorify the deeds of the Australian digger, sometimes beyond accuracy’ (Broinowski 2016). Like Burstall, Broinowski argues for better balance in the story of Long Tan. Certainly, Australian soldiers were brave and fought professionally against daunting odds and they tried to save the South Vietnamese from communist aggressors, but, he says: What many of them did not know, or chose to ignore, was that the centre of South Vietnamese power was just as anti-democratic as the North. It was corrupt, controlled and manipulated by an outside power, and the locals were sick of being herded into strategic hamlets and shot at or bombed when they refused to stay there. (Broinowski 2016)



He sees it as inevitable that the Vietnamese government would react against the growing numbers, pomp, and commercialisation of the Australian services at the Long Tan memorial site and withdraw its support.

Conclusions Divergence in Remembrance The three battlefields have been remembered in different and changing ways. Until 2016 Long Tan was the focus of Australia’s commemoration and memorialisation for the whole of its engagement in the Vietnam War. Of course, conducting commemorative services on Vietnamese soil had always portrayed arrogance and insensitivity on Australia’s part and it was inevitable that it would be rejected at some point by the Vietnamese government. While the replica memorial cross still stands at Long Tan and remains the setting for small, unofficial gatherings on Anzac Day and Long Tan Day, the future of these on-site ceremonies is now unclear. Certainly, the principal Long Tan commemoration services will be held in Canberra. By contrast, and notwithstanding the belated 50th anniversary service in Canberra in May 2018, Coral-Balmoral remains largely unremembered. Binh Ba, meanwhile, is disremembered, the Australian government and its military and veteran affairs advisors having chosen not to become publicly involved in commemorative activities at the controversial site, leaving any commemorative visits to individual veterans. Until the truth about the Battle of Binh Ba is settled through more detailed research, it will remain an uncomfortable event in both Australian and Vietnamese remembrance of war. Battlefield Significance The case studies in this chapter show that two types of significance—military and emotional—are particularly relevant in explaining how each battlefield is remembered. Given the ultimate loss of the United States and its allies in the Vietnam War, none of the battles fought by Australian soldiers in Vietnam had great military significance. At most they held back the enemy, slowing its advance towards the victory that came eventually with the fall of Saigon in 1975 (Ekins 2012, p. 696). Even so, the iconic Battle of Long Tan seems to have been less militarily significant than Coral-­ Balmoral and Binh Ba. It was an unexpected event and not a strategic



manoeuvre, on Australia’s side at least; indeed, the detailed personal account given by Terry Burstall (1986) shows it to be a reflection of the early chaos of Australia’s intervention in the war. The Battle of Coral-­ Balmoral, which had more casualties on both sides, at least led to enemy withdrawal from the area. Similarly, at Binh Ba the enemy suffered such heavy losses that they were forced to leave the province temporarily. Although Australian forces did encounter enemy units in the remaining war years, the Battle of Binh Ba marked the end of large-scale clashes (Ham 2007, p. 484). Emotional significance seems to be more important in relation to battlefields. When asked to identify the most important places associated with the theme, the Australians at War Thematic Study focus groups most readily named battlefields and related sites such as prisoner of war camps (Logan et al. 2005, p. 68). To them it was clear that the overseas sites of active fighting between Australian and enemy forces provided the most traumatic, life-changing experiences for the large number of Australians directly engaged in war. Not all of the impact was negative: for many men and women, war service meant going ‘abroad’ for the first time, experiencing foreign environments and cultures, as well as the exhilaration of meeting the challenge. However, there were also the extreme stress associated with fighting, the pain and humiliation of imprisonment, and the grief resulting from the loss of comrades. In relation to the three Vietnam War battlefields, however, it is fair to say that because of the vastly smaller death toll, they have not left as large an emotional scar on the Australian nation as have Gallipoli and the Western Front from World War I, or, indeed, the Thai-Burma Railway from World War II. Even so, the loss of lives is always an emotional trigger for veterans, their families and descendants. Visiting battlefield and related sites today therefore produces powerful emotional responses from those men and women whose war service is linked to them (Logan et al. 2005, p. 68). Moreover, once commemoration activities commence, a battlefield can take on a life of its own regardless of military importance of the battle itself, Gallipoli being the prime example, and regardless of the number of fatalities, as at Long Tan. Their incorporation into official and popular interpretations of Australian national identity, often mythologised, such as the Anzac legend, facilitates this process and strengthens the subsequent impact on political decision-making and social, cultural and economic developments (Logan et al. 2005, p. 71).



Commemoration and Memorialisation Processes Long Tan and Binh Ba tell a tale, not of site significance in the usual way the heritage profession has come to use the term in the heritage profession (see, for example, Australia ICOMOS 2013), but of agency. This was agency at the level of individuals in the case of Long Tan—Australian soldiers taking action themselves rather than waiting for others, in particular governments, to take the lead. Inevitably, Australian governments and their agencies were drawn into the story at Long Tan, although preferring to operate quietly and often through unofficial agents. This appears to be a common process, repeated at Dien Bien Phu, the second of only two foreign memorials in Vietnam, where a small French memorial was initially erected on the initiative of a single soldier, Foreign Legionnaire Rolf Rodel, but where eventually the French government was drawn into the main caretaker role (Logan and Nguyen 2012, p. 48). Individual agency also led to the building of memorials to dead soldiers on the Thai-Burma Railway (Witcomb 2016) and at Kapyong  from the Korean war (Ziino 2014). With the Australian state taking charge of memorialisation at the site, the Long Tan battle could be fitted into the Anzac legend and the pattern set at Gallipoli could be followed in which its soldiers were portrayed as the victims of war. Long Tan was a baptism of fire, the new boys barely landed in Vietnam. By contrast, by mid-1969 when the Battle of Binh Ba took place, the Australian Army in Vietnam had reached its peak strength of almost 7000 personnel (Ekins 2012, p. 195). Long Tan was able to be used by politicians, government agencies, and veterans’ groups in ways that Coral-Balmoral and especially Binh Ba could not. The Long Tan battlefield came to play a vital role in reconciliation with Vietnam and in other international relations between the former belligerents, including trade. By contrast, there had been no commemorative actions by individual soldiers at either Coral-Balmoral or Binh Ba and the Australian authorities have seen no advantage in starting any. The processes of remembrance and forgetting are often politically motivated and commemoration and memorialisation activities can be used to support government nation-building goals but also for point-scoring between rival political parties. Australian prime ministers have often taken a leading role in promoting commemoration and memorialisation at battlefield sites. Other ministers followed suit, leading one Vietnam veteran to complain publicly that ‘These “commemorations” all too often turn



into a celebration and more particularly one long photo opportunity for politicians’ (cited in Daley 2011). The media play a major part in promoting the commemoration process. There are countless newspaper articles and television news reports, documentaries and drama series about the Vietnam War and they exert a clear influence on popular attitudes and political decision making. War sells, and one reason given for the unremembrance of Coral-Balmoral was that it was not sensational enough to have captured media attention: the battle was seen as ‘no big deal’ in the strategic sense and casualties were light (Mills 2018). But even when the media saw war stories selling newspapers or advertising space, they could never fully convey the horror experienced by soldiers who fought in the battles in Vietnam, and reporters have faced criticism from Daley (2011), Broinowski (2016), and others for falling back on clichéd and jingoistic renditions of events. The Future? The meaning of wartime events is very often contested and ‘for commemorative events the level of contestation may be very high and difficult to resolve’ (Frost and Laing 2013, p. 1). Australian historian of war, Bruce Scates (2013, p. 4), observes that scholars call all warscapes ‘active sites of memory’ that are open to interrogation and interpretation by different groups and different generations. How will the passage of time affect the commemoration and memorialisation of the battlefields, indeed of the Vietnam War itself? It is clear that there are ‘still today important differences within Vietnam, as well as within France, the United States and Australia, towards what should be commemorated and memorialised and why and how’ (Logan 2016, p. 219). Nevertheless, Vietnamese veterans of the southern army and the Viet Cong seem to have formed a modus vivendi allowing them to get on with daily life. These carriers of memory are, however, ageing and passing away, which may ease reconciliation processes in Vietnam (Logan and Witcomb 2013, p. 273). The Vietnam War is ancient history for today’s young generation—and it is important to bear in mind here that half of Australia’s population and three-quarters of Vietnam’s were born since the war ended. Benjamin Morris (2011, p. 27) has said that remembering and forgetting are not in opposition to each other but are both needed. David Lowenthal (1999, p. xi) claims that ‘To forget is as essential as to keep



things in mind, for no individual or collectivity can afford to remember everything. Total recall would leave us unable to discriminate or to generalise’. In relation to post-World War II Germany, Andreas Huyssen (1999, p. 192), says there can be too many memorials, making it easier to forget the past. This fits nicely with Rodney Harrison’s concern that there is too much ‘heritage’ today, which has the effect of debasing the currency (Harrison 2013). This may make Australia’s unremembrance of Coral-­ Balmoral and disremembrance of Binh Ba seem sensible, pragmatic responses to the multitudinous calamities of the Vietnam War. But the question remains: what is lost when we forget? Or, as Scates (2013, p. 264), put it: what is forgotten when we remember war? We forget that there were far more Vietnamese than Australian casualties in all three battles as, indeed, the Vietnam War as a whole. Are some lives worth more than others—or are we just tied into a nationalistic caring for one’s own more than others? Broinowski’s call for a better balance in the way we regard Australia’s engagement in Vietnam and war generally is relevant here. Of course, let’s remember lives lost, but also let’s emphasise the horror and inhumanity of war and the role of governments in them. It is too easy to send soldiers to fight in foreign fields; it is much harder to curb jingoism in public forums and the arms industry, both of which make war possible. As I noted in relation to bushfire catastrophes (Logan 2015, p. 17), the focus on building memorials and commemorative activities at them can divert us from the more fundamental question of why they—soldiers in war zones, residents in bushfire prone areas—were there in the first place. Acknowledgements  This chapter grew out of an Australia Research Council-­ funded project entitled ‘Australian Heritage Abroad: Managing Australia’s Extraterritorial War Heritage’ conducted in collaboration with Professor Andrea Witcomb and Dr Bart Ziino, both of Deakin University, and Professor Joan Beaumont of the Australian National University. I thank ‘Breaker’ Cusack and the Australian veterans interviewed, as well as Khong Quoc Thuan for filling in the Vietnamese side of the battlefield stories. I thank, too, Dr Peter Bille Larsen at the University of Geneva and the participants in the Places of Memory: Narrative and Trauma workshop at the University of Queensland for their valuable comments on earlier drafts.



References Anzac Day Commemoration Committee (Queensland) (ADCC). n.d. Long Tan, viewed 2 July 2018, longtan.html. Australia ICOMOS 2013, The Burra Charter. The Australia ICOMOS Charter for places of cultural significance, 4th edn, Australia ICOMOS, Melbourne, viewed 30 June 2018, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) 2016, ‘The battle of Long Tan: How 100 Australian soldiers held off 2,000 Viet Cong’, ABC News, 18 August, viewed 30 June 2018, Australian War Memorial (AWM) 2018, 50th anniversaries of the battles at Fire Support Bases Coral and Balmoral in Vietnam program of commemorations and exhibitions, viewed 19 June 2018, Benton, T & Cecil, C 2010, ‘Heritage and public memory’, in Benton, T (ed.), Understanding heritage and memory, Manchester University Press, Manchester, pp. 7–43. Broinowski, R 2016, ‘Long Tan: Reconsidering Australia at war’, Australian Outlook, vol. 6, September, viewed 2 July 2018, Burke, A n.d., ‘D-Day 25 years on—The battle of Binh Ba’, viewed 1 October 2013, Burstall, T 1986, Soldiers’ story: The battle at Xa Long Tan Vietnam, 18 August 1966, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia. ——— 1993, Vietnam: The Australian dilemma, University of Queensland Press, St Lucia. Daley, P 2011, ‘Lest we forget the horror’, Sydney Morning Herald, 24 April, viewed 30 June 2018, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) 2002, Email Australian Embassy, Hanoi, to DFAT, Canberra, 23 April 2002, DFAT File 2003/040178, International Affairs –Bilateral Relations, Vietnam-Australian Vietnam Veterans’ Issues, including Long Tan Cross. Ekins, A 2012, Fighting to the finish: The Australian Army and the Vietnam War 1968–1975, Allen & Unwin in association with the Australian War Memorial, Sydney. Elias, D & Broadbent, D 1980, ‘Veterans deny massacre’. The Age, 2 July. Ellery, D 2018, ‘Battle of Coral Balmoral remembered 50 years on’, Canberra Times, 11 May, viewed 2 July 2018, national/act/battle-of-coral-balmoral-remembered-50-years-on-20180418p4zea7.html.



Fraser, M & Simons, M 2010, Malcolm Fraser: The political memoirs, Miegunyah, Melbourne. Frost, F 1987, Australia’s war in Vietnam, Allen & Unwin, Sydney. Frost, W & Laing, J 2013, Commemorative events: Memory, identities, conflict, Routledge, London. Ham, P 2007, The Australian war, HarperCollins Australia, Sydney. Harrison, R 2013, ‘Forgetting to remember, remembering to forget: Late modern heritage practices, sustainability, and the “crisis” of accumulation of the past’, International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 19, no. 6, pp. 579–95. Hawke, B 1994, The Hawke memoirs, William Heinemann, Melbourne. Ho, Son Dai (ed.) 1995, Lich su Ba Ria-Vung Tau khang chien (1945–1975) [Resistance History of Ba Ria-Vung Tau (1945–1975)], Nha xuat ban Quan doi Nhan dan [People’s Army Publishing House], Hanoi. Hunter, C 2017, ‘That’s where it belongs—on the wall in the War Memorial’, Australian War Memorial, Memorial Articles 7 December, viewed 30 June 2018, Huyssen, A 1999, ‘Monumental seduction’, in Bal, M, Crewe, J & Spitzer, L (eds.), Acts of memory: Cultural recall in the present, University Press of New England, Hanover, pp. 191–207. Logan, W 2015, ‘Bushfire catastrophe in Victoria, Australia: Record, accountability and memorialisation’, National Identities, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 155–74. ——— 2016, ‘Remembering wars in Vietnam: Commemoration, memorialisation and heritage management’, in Reeves, K, Bird, GR, James, L, Stichelbaut, B & Bourgeois, J (eds.), Battlefield events: Landscape, commemoration and heritage, Routledge, London, pp. 217–34. ——— 2020, ‘Blowing hot and cold: Culture-related activities in the deployment of Australia’s soft power in Asia’, in Labadi, S (ed.), The cultural turn in international aid, Routledge, London, pp. 152–69. Logan, W & Nguyen, TB 2012, ‘Victory and defeat at Dien Bien Phu: Memory and memorialisation in Vietnam and France’, in Gegner, M and Ziino, B (eds.), The heritage of war, Routledge, London, pp. 41–63. Logan, W & Reeves, K 2009, ‘Remembering place of pain and shame’, in Logan, W & Reeves, K (eds.), Places of pain and shame: Dealing with ‘difficult heritage’, Routledge, London, pp. 1–14. Logan, W & Witcomb, A 2013, ‘Messages from Long Tan, Vietnam: Memorialisation, reconciliation and historical justice’, Critical Asian Studies, vol. 45, no. 2, pp. 255–78. Logan, W, Beaumont, J, Ziino, B, Smith, A, Balderstone, S & Donkin, J 2005, Australians at war thematic study of heritage places and discussion of national listing criteria and thresholds, Report to Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria. Lowenthal, D 1999, ‘Preface’, in Forty, A & Küchler, S (eds.), The art of forgetting, Berg, Oxford, pp. xi–xiii.



McKay, G 2003, Australia’s battlefields in Viet Nam: A traveller’s guide, Allen & Unwin, Sydney. McKay, G & Nichols, G 2001, Jungle tracks: Australian armour in Vietnam, Allen & Unwin, Sydney. Mills, N. 2018, Vietnam war: Australians urged to remember on 50th anniversary of the battle of Coral-Balmoral, ABC Radio Melbourne, 13 May, viewed 19 June 2018, Morris, B 2011, ‘Forgetting: An overview’, in Anheier, H & Isar, YR (eds.), Heritage, memory and identity, Sage, London, pp. 27–28. Nguyen, DT (ed.), 2002, Lich su Dang bo, quan va dan huyen Long Dat (1930–2000) [History of the party division, army and people of Long Dat district (1930–2000)], Cong Ty in 27/7 [27 July Printing Company], Ho Chi Minh City. Nguyen-Vo TH 2005, ‘Forking paths: How shall we mourn the dead?’ Amerasia Journal, vol. 31, no. 2, pp. 157–75. O’Neill, R 1968, Vietnam task: The 5th Battalion the Royal Australian Regiment, 1966/67, Cassell Australia, Melbourne. Scates, B 2013, Anzac journeys: Returning to the battlefields of World War II, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne. Schwenkel, C 2006, ‘Recombinant history: Transnational practices of memory and knowledge production in contemporary Vietnam’, Cultural Anthropology, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 3–30. Scott, E 2017, ‘Cross of Long Tan’s return to Australian War Memorial kept secret for weeks’, ABC News, 6 December, viewed 30 June 2018, Seniors Newspaper 2017, ‘Finally home: Cross of Long Tan returned to Australia’, 7 December, viewed 30 June 2018, cross-long-tan-returned-war-memorial/3284629/. The Guardian 2017, ‘Long Tan Anzac commemoration ruled out by Vietnam’, 17 March, viewed 2 July 2018, mar/17/long-tan-anzac-commemoration-ruled-out-by-vietnam. Witcomb, A 2016, ‘Cross-cultural encounters and ‘difficult heritage’ on the Thai-­ Burma Railway: An ethics of cosmopolitanism rather than practices of exclusion’, in Logan, W, Nic Craith, M & Kockel, U (eds.), A companion to heritage studies, Wiley Blackwell, Chichester, pp. 461–78. Ziino, B 2014, ‘A war that is not ended: Commemorating Kapyong’, paper presented to the Australians Heritage Abroad: Managing Australia’s Extraterritorial War Heritage symposium, Deakin University, Melbourne, 12–13 June.


‘Difficult Heritage’, Silent Witnesses: Dismembering Traumatic Memories, Narratives and Emotions of Firebombing in Japan Natsuko Akagawa

Prelude Memories of the blazing inferno that engulfed the residential streets of many cities in wartime Japan, indiscriminately taking away loved ones, are still fresh in the minds of survivors today. As one now senior survivor recalls: If you still had your child’s body, it was better. Some mothers were carrying bodies of children on their backs without neck [head], arms or legs—not knowing the state they were in, that their child had perished. Everyone was in a state of numbness, lost in abstraction; eyes were blank and empty as if

N. Akagawa (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




souls were wiped out from their bodies. This is what you call a devastating inferno … It was a living hell. (Anonymous testimony [Author’s translation])

The urban landscape we see in the major cities of Japan today, including the Kobe, Osaka, and Tokyo metropolis, are in fact embedded with traumatic memory. The extent of the destruction occasioned by the firebombing air raids of Japan’s cities can hardly be imagined today. Civilians, including children, experienced the inferno and were confronted by the swollen, charred and dismembered bodies of loved ones and neighbours scattered around in front of their eyes. For people who experienced these atrocities, the memories of these events continue to torment them. For them, the ‘place’, their hometown and neighbourhood, continues to act as a silent witness to these events and to the memory of the people who lost their lives there. It was a place enveloped in flames that swallowed people and everything that people had held dear. Many of the lost lives buried beneath the contemporary urban landscape of most major Japanese cities have yet to be identified, commemorated and properly buried according to traditional Japanese rites. For the civilians who experienced the firebombing air raids of their hometown, the sense of place, of a hometown, is coupled with conflicting emotions. Along with the memory of a warm, happy childhood, they are haunted by what they describe as an ‘unimaginable horror’, the experience of ‘a living hell’ when their life-world was ‘turned upside-down’ and their ‘heart ripped apart’. However, for this generation of survivors and their immediate family members, these memories are also entangled with feelings of guilt. There is the immediate and overwhelming guilt of not having been able to save those who were killed. At the same time, they experience the welling up of emotions of agony of having survived themselves, where loved ones had not, and of having been unable to provide them with appropriate forms of burial. They are haunted by a growing sense of urgency around their sense of responsibility for transmitting their memories of their experience to new generations of post-war Japanese, and to the citizens of the world, and of guilt that they have not, or could not, execute this responsibility adequately. Beyond their sense of personal responsibility and guilt, has been the need to come to terms with the difficult politics of national victimhood, and national guilt; of remembering what was inflicted on their country, and of having had to face the ignominy of the suffering their nation inflicted, but as well, a sense of the injustice of the national wartime domestic regulations imposed upon them.



It is this complexity of entangled emotions that adds to the trauma and agony of Japanese survivors and witnesses that has been largely silenced, that is now seeking public expression. Alongside this, there is the strong motivation to convince the world of the need to avoid war, or more emphatically, for there ‘never’ to be war again. This is about the story of individuals who have carried the memory and the burden of these events for their entire life. Accounts of the traumatic experience of civilians of the firebombing air raids of Japanese cities are still largely absent from histories of the Asia-Pacific war. Where the fate of Japanese civilians is addressed, this tends to highlight the also devastating nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Notably commemorated at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome), this is often presented as a subset of a broader international post-war/Cold War discourse of nuclear disarmament. Moreover, focussing on the nuclear bombing has had the effect of side-lining both national and international attention to the trauma of the earlier, year and a half-long fierce firebombing air raids of most of Japan’s major cities between February 1944 and August 1945 (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre 2013, p. 66). This is even though, in the case of one of these firebombing air raids of Tokyo on 9–10 March 1945, it has been estimated that ‘no previous or subsequent conventional bombing raid ever came close to generating the toll in death and destruction’ (Selden 2007, p. 10). This one event was, in the words of General Thomas Power, ‘the greatest single disaster incurred by any enemy in military history’ (Selden 2007, p. 7; see also Schaffer 1985, p. 131). This chapter examines the complex, entangled emotions that constitutes multiple layers of sensibilities that include, trauma, guilt and agony of civilian survivors and witnesses that have had been largely silenced and which remain underexplored in the international context. The chapter also examines the emergence of public spaces dedicated to exhibiting the memory of the traumatic experience of the wartime urban firebombing air raids of Japan’s cities. I draw attention to the significance of the community-­ initiated, grassroots nature of this phenomenon and the variety of tangible and intangible forms that the narratives of memory are taking in these community-based resource centres and museums. I discuss how these spaces for the narration of trauma enable the transmission of the multiple layers of sorrow and guilt that constitute personal trauma to construct a collective memory of these events. Finally, I show how emerging spaces for the narration of trauma enable the transmission of personal trauma and guilt, and simultaneously engage with what I call the ‘authorised narrative



discourse’ of the post-war Japanese nation. An ‘authorised narrative discourse’, I argue, is a form of power developed over time reflecting the interests of a nation, or groups within a nation, that supports their position of dominance. This entails the construction of political and ethnic hierarchies of power domestically and internationally, which then influences and translates how events are narrated internationally and within a nation. It is this authorised version of the past which the now once silenced witnesses are seeking to broaden.

Dismembered Bodies: Urban Destruction and Civil Causalities Until today, the precise number of civilian deaths caused by the firebombing air raids of more than 208 Japanese cities, of which 80 were the target of particularly heavy bombing, is unknown (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre 2013, p. 66). In 2014 the Tokyo Shimbun (newspaper), citing the Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre reported an estimate of around 410,000 firebombing-related deaths nation-wide (Tokyo Shimbun 2015). These firebombs, or shoidan in Japanese, were specifically designed and tested in the months preceding their delivery for their effectiveness to burn Japanese urban civilian residences basically made of timber and paper (see also Fedman and Karacas 2012). It is thought that destructive firebombing air raids of cities left about 15 million inhabitants (out of a total pre-war national population of 72 million) homeless, and unknown thousands of children orphaned. These traumatic events were followed by the dropping of two nuclear bombs, on the city of Hiroshima that directly claimed a further estimated 140,000 dead (Hiroshima heiwa kinen shiryoukan 2017a, p. 41) and the city of Nagasaki that saw the immediate death of at least 70,000 people (Nagasaki Genbaku Shiryokan n.d.). However, the precise number who died immediately, and the thousands who died subsequently from the effects of this sequence of bombings, remains unknown.

Consoling Spirits and Commemorating Souls In Japan, it is customary for monuments of commemoration to be erected as a way for Japanese people to honour the dead and to provide a place to console the souls of those who died. During the war, due to the sheer number of casualties occasioned by urban firebombings, in most cases burial had to be performed in any way that was possible with the limited resources available at that time. In some cases, family members, if they



were fortunate enough to be able to identify the bodies, were able to undertake cremation by themselves. However, in the chaos and with the enormous number of victims occasioned by the bombing, thousands of bodies had to be hastily buried often without appropriate ceremony. Some attempt was made in Tokyo in 1948 to address this need to remember the deceased. Some bodies of firebombing victims that had been temporarily buried in approximately 90 locations across the Tokyo city area, were disinterred and placed in the Tokyo Ireido (lit: Tokyo hall for consolation of souls) (Tokyo Ireikyokai 2012). Elsewhere in Tokyo, a statue of the jizo (guardian deity of children) and a ‘Memorial for the victims of air raids’ was erected by a private person in 1950 in Itabashi ward. However, this hardly addressed the extent of the losses where in one of the most shocking occasions, on the night of 9 March 1945, 300 American B29 bombers dropped 500,000 cylinders of napalm and petroleum jelly that instantly burnt alive more than 100,000 people (Yamabe 2011; Tokyo Shimbun 2015). For survivors, many of them children and young adolescents, the task of collecting bodies and attempting to arrange appropriate cremation and burial was immense. A brief insight into this moment is provided by personal testimony. One woman, who at the time was a 14-year-old student, writes how she and her fellow students, ‘waited for the dawn of August 15th [1945]. We were weak but tried very hard to gather our strength to pile up the vast number of charred bodies on to the truck to be cremated elsewhere’ (Kawada 1983, p. 78). Mr Higashiura Eiichi, then 16 years of age and currently the president of Sennintsuka Association, recalls the moment when US military aircraft, gliding low over the area of a park where hundreds of people had taken refuge, fired at them repeatedly with their manual machine guns. They were mostly women, children, and the elderly from the neighbourhood, including a group of female students working at a local garment factory. Mr Higashiura and some others managed to escape being shot by running and diving into ditches, but others were not so lucky. He describes how later he saw countless, literally thousands of dead bodies floating in the pond of the park and in the nearby Yodo River, a scene he can never forget (Sankei Shimbun 2015). It is estimated that over one thousand people died that day, many of whom were then quickly cremated at the riverbank and buried there (Sankei Shimbun 2015). In 1946 Mr Higashiura’s father personally engraved a ‘sennintsuka’ (‘monument for the thousand’ here implying a monument to commemorate and rest the souls of 1000 victims) on one of the stones in his garden to commemorate and rest the



Fig. 3.1  Sennintsuka in Osaka stands on the now peaceful riverbank where thousands were buried. (Source: Author 2020)

souls of these air raid victims from his neighbourhood (Fig. 3.1). This act became the basis of an important place for remembering and is now used as the main monument to console the souls of the victims of firebombing air raids and associated mass killing by machine guns that took place in this area of Osaka. Mr Higashiura’s account of his and his father’s experience resembles stories told to me by my relatives during my childhood. One of whom, six years of age at the time, was walking to school, and he remembers being specifically targeted several times by a rain of bullets fired from the manual machineguns operated by US military aircraft pilots. People, including children, had been told to dive into a ditch or hide in the bushes if they were being targeted. A common characteristic of the way this wartime generation recounts their childhood memories is the way they switch to using the present tense as they recall the past, as if they have been transported back in time.



Although annual memorial services to commemorate victims of aerial firebombings did begin to be held in Tokyo by the 1950s (Nihon terebi 2018), it was not until the 1970s that more elaborate forms of public recognition of these events, in the form of memorial monuments, began to become evident. When memorials did finally emerge, it was initiated by local individuals and grass roots, community, and citizen groups rather than by official municipal or government agencies (Yamabe 2011). While the earlier urban aerial bombings that targeted civilians had of course not been forgotten, it is evident that this has not received the attention in Japan accorded to the victims of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The earliest memorials for consoling souls that now exist in greater numbers in urban Japan, date from the mid-1980s, and can be seen today in the corner of parks or on private properties. Amongst the most noticeable is the ‘Memorial for consoling the souls of Tokyo Air Raids victims’ erected in 1986 in a part of Sumida Park in Taito ward. It marks a place where many people were provisionally buried after the Tokyo air raids of 10 March 1945. In 1994, another memorial, the ‘Great Kanto Earthquake and Tokyo Air Raids Victims’ Memorial to Console the Souls1 was erected in Tokyo near where hundreds of deceased bodies had been washed down and piled up near the mouth of Sumida river in Minato ward. The following year in 1995, the ‘Toshima-ward Air Raids Victim Mourning Monument’ was erected in Minamiikebukuro Park for the victims of the air raids in Toshima ward. According to the interpretation board, approximately 70% of the city ward’s 161,000 residents were either killed, heavily injured, and/or lost their home. That memorial marks the place where truckloads of bodies had been brought for mass burial. Another important memorial is the Tokyo kushu giseisha o tsuito shi heiwa o kinen suru ishibumi (Memorial for Great Tokyo Air Raids Victims and Pray for Peace Monument) erected in 2001 next to the Tokyo Ireido (Tokyo hall for consoling the souls) within Yokoamicho Park in Sumida ward. As with other urban memorials to the deceased, an essential element in imbuing them with their spiritual significance as places for the commemoration of souls is the participation of people in their erection. In the case of 2001 Tokyo  kushu giseisha o tsuito shi heiwa o kinen suru ishibumi this gesture took the form of financial donations as people responded to a call by the Tokyo no dai kushu giseisha o tsuito shi heiwa o negau kai (Association for memorial to Tokyo victims of air raids and a wish for peace) (Tokyo Ireikyokai 2012).



Collecting, Remembering and Narrating The most notable early public account of the firebombing air raids emerged in the early 1970s in the form of collections of personal stories intended to document the firebombing air raids of Tokyo. In 1970 the writer Saotome Katsumoto, 12 years of age at the time of the bombings, founded the Tokyo daikushu o kiroku suru kai (Association to Record the Tokyo Air Raids) and began to actively collect testimonies and other documentation in relation to the Tokyo air raids. In 1971, he published a book, Tokyo daikushu showa 20 nen 3  gatsu 10 ka no kiroku (Tokyo Airraid: Record of 10 March 1945), based on interviews he had conducted with air raid survivors and in 1973–1974 he produced the four-volume Tokyo daikushu shi—sensaishi (History and Documentation of Tokyo Great Air Raids), a comprehensive account of the event published by a major publisher in Japan. Later he established the Tokyo daikushu sensai shiryo centre. Today Saotome continues his mission to make public the experience of the civilian firebombing with lectures and writing (Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre n.d.). Around the same time, another writer, Nosaka Akiyuki, who was 14 years of age at the time of the bombings, wrote a semi-biographical novel Hotaru no haka (English title: Grave of the Fireflies). Published in 1967, it was awarded the Naoki Prize in 1968. Based on Nosaka’s memory of his experiences during the war, the novel recounts the story of two survivors, an orphaned brother and baby sister, struggling to survive in wartime Kobe and Nishinomiya (Hyogo prefecture, located to the west of Osaka Prefecture). In 1988, by which time the circumstances of firebombing had attracted more public attention, the novel became the basis of an animated film by Studio Ghibli directed by Takahata Isao.2 As a child, Takahata had experienced and survived air raids and wartime devastation in Okayama (a prefecture bordering Hyogo prefecture) and this is reflected in the way the events are depicted in his animated film. Shown around the world to international acclaim, the film depicts the traumatic experience of ordinary people in Japan who lived through the total devastation of the physical and human urban environment occasioned by the air raids that had constituted their everyday life. As these examples suggest, the memory of the horror and tragedy of the firebombing has remained vivid within the community and central to the history of the memorials that have been established as the result of



active community participation. This has also involved conducting ceremonies to console the spirits of the victims. Most of these are small local monuments and not necessarily limited to commemorating the victims of the firebombing alone. In each case, the histories of the memorials also testify to the reluctance of authorities to respond to this expression of the shared remembered grief felt by local citizens. Moreover, it has only been towards the end of the twentieth century, and more particularly since the early years of the present century, that the history of the experience of firebombing has gained wider public attention in Japan or recognition in the form of official memorials to the dead. This has now gained pace and at the time of writing, 62 memorial monuments in relation to civilian victims of war can be identified throughout Tokyo alone. In part, this growing phenomenon of memorialisation can be interpreted as a consequence of the age profile of the survivors of these events. Their concern to ensure that the memory of suffering as a result of the 1944–1945 firebombing air raids would be made known to coming generations has led to the gradual transposition of an individual trauma into a broader collective memory (Tumarkin 2013). Beyond what can be regarded as the more personal significance of the memorial, however, is also the more recent public representation of memory in special purpose museums and ‘memory centres’. Facilitated by the adoption of newer curatorial practices and technologies, the changing nature of the way memory is exhibited in museums has had a significant impact on the way the past is presented and transmitted. For the ones ‘left to live’ after the war, museums have performed a role as places where the memories can finally be opened for public viewing. For some people, this has been a way to find closure. Not knowing what had happened to family members and loved ones, or of knowing the horror of their passing having witnessed their dismembered and ruined lifeless bodies, has continued to haunt them. They have also felt a sense of guilt for not having been able to save them or offer appropriate rituals of farewell to console the spirits of their loved ones. In addition, anger at the lack of recognition by the government has contributed to the continuing persistence of the remembered trauma. While the past had continued to trouble the survivors, the responsibility they felt to leave behind tangible evidence of their memories had weighed increasingly upon them. In the random everyday objects that constituted surviving fragments of the lives of their lost family and friends, they have found reminders of the moments of the horror of that war



experience. It is through the emotive power of these objects and in the many visual, written and oral forms of testimony in which they invested their memories later, that a public and tangible narrative of their memories could be conveyed to others, years after the event.

A ‘Forgotten Holocaust’ or the ‘Good War’? Although it is clear that survivors and witnesses had never forgotten what Fedman and Karacas (2012) refer to as the ‘extreme domicide’ or ‘urbicide’ perpetrated between early 1944 and August 1945, until relatively recently public remembrance of these events has been limited in Japan. There has been what Dower has called an ‘abnormal interlude of silence’ (Dower 1995, p. 294). The relatively recent attention these events have received in Japan and internationally reflect a gradual dismantling of what I call the ‘authorised narrative’ that is widely shared around the world. This can be partly ascribed to a gradual lessening of the international sensitivities surrounding this history. In Japan, the commemoration of the civilian victims was initially prohibited during the Allied occupation (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017a, p. 43). Post occupation, after 1952, as will be discussed below, the Japanese government continued to suppress public commemoration of these civilian victims in its efforts to unify the Japanese nation around an official commitment to a national, post-war ‘peace narrative’. Within international (Allied) discourse, this ‘forgetting’ or ‘disremembering’ can be ascribed to what Fedman and Karacas (2012) suggest has been the persistence of ‘resilient narratives of “the Good War”, the attention given to the atomic bombings […] and a general unwillingness to tackle unsettling moral questions about the intentional large scale targeting of civilians’ (Fedman and Karacas 2012, p.  307). When the fate of Japanese civilians has been addressed internationally in reference to the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this too has been conditional. In the justificatory discourse of the ‘Good War’, the nuclear bombing continues to be presented, for example, most recently by Schwabe (2015), as having ‘saved American lives’, a justification that subsumes a justification of the preceding firebombings of civilians. Such justification of the civilian bombing has involved an ‘interconnected set of linguistic and visual representations’ in which Japanese cities were envisioned as ‘an abstract enemy space […] largely stripped of humans’ that denied the existence of the ‘Japanese civilian body’ (Fedman and Karacas 2012, p. 314). The recent referencing



of the concept of ‘genocide’ and the labelling of the aerial bombing of Japan’s cities as a ‘forgotten holocaust’ (Selden 2007) suggests that equating the horror and deliberate inhumanity of these acts with the Jewish holocaust may begin to change this ‘Good War’ discourse.

Personal and Collective Remembering: Recognising Victimhood In Japan, the long absence of public remembering of the history and experience of firebombing air raids is also linked to an official focus on both the atrocity of atomic bombing and peace narrative. This occurred almost immediately after the war, notably with the establishment of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku dome). The memorials became both a national and international reference to a broader post-war discourse of nuclear disarmament and international peace. That  discourse emphasised the ‘victimhood of the Japanese people’, at the same time it identified ‘the country’s exceptional status […] as “the only nation ever to have been atom-bombed”’ (Imahori 1985, cited in Orr 2001, p. 1). Important as this was, the symbolic ‘sharing’ of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial with an international public was also a way for two difficult historical memories to be addressed (Miyamoto 2011). While it enabled the Japanese state to ‘pay respect to those who suffered atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese government during the war’, it was also a way to ‘evade the imputation of responsibility’ for the ‘unimaginable suffering’ experienced by its own citizens (Miyamoto 2011, p. 2; Saito 2006). At the same time, it allowed the Japanese emperor’s response to the extraordinary event of the US atomic bombing in declaring an end to war to be represented as ‘a heroic sacrifice’ constituting Japan’s contribution to world peace (Igarashi 2000, p. 28). In summary, Igarashi argues, the official narrative sought to provide healing for the Japanese nation by ‘render[ing] understandable the experiences of the atomic bomb’ and enabling the nation ‘to cloak [its] defeat in the guise of a strategic necessity and concern for humanity at large’ (Igarashi 2000, p. 20). This complex resolution of competing internal and international discourses in relation to the conclusion of the Asia-Pacific War constituted the foundational narrative for modern post-war Japan (Igarashi 2000). It was kept in place by the importance of Japan’s reliance on the US alliance



at the end of the war and by what has been interpreted as a ‘stalemate in a fierce, multi-vocal struggle over national legacy and the meaning of being Japanese’ (Hashimoto 2015, p. 9). The apparent silencing of personal narratives of victimhood and the maintenance of a pacifist identity acted to obscure Japan’s own wartime actions—or at least act as an atonement for it. This ensured that a public narrative of personal Japanese suffering could only gain official support where it coincided with this pro-peace image of Japanese identity. It represented Japan’s ‘long defeat’ (Hashimoto 2015). In the ‘narrative of progress’ that accompanied Japan’s subsequent swift rise to economic success, the wartime suffering was seen as ‘the origin of [the prosperity of] post-war Japanese society’ (Igarashi 2000, p. 167). A crucial consequence of this evolving narrative in post-war Japan was the official disremembering of the traumatic experience of the catastrophic events of 1944–1945 and a suppression of the sense of victimhood associated with it. Although there were signs that modern Japan’s foundational narrative was beginning to unravel by the late 1960s (Igarashi 2000; Saito 2006), this received little official encouragement. What appears, therefore, as an increase in unofficial community-based presentation of personal traumatic experience can be seen as a manifestation of a gradual and relatively recent national willingness to broaden the foundations of a Japanese identity. The noticeably recent development of locally focused, community-­ initiated, museums, public and private ‘memory centres’, community halls, public spaces and schools, has been devoted to the display of personal forms of remembrance (Fig. 3.2). They give expression to the individual emotional dimensions of the memory of that traumatic experience, accentuated by innovative curatorial practices. In some cases the individual buildings themselves can contribute further to the affective power of what is exhibited. This growing public recognition and ownership of personal memories represents the development of a ‘social construction of meaning’. In such circumstances, Hirschberger (2018) suggests, individual memory is transformed through processes of remembering, selection and reinterpretation. It involves, amongst other things, ‘a sense of collective self that is transgenerational’ and that promotes a ‘sense of an historic collective self’ (Hirschberger 2018, p.  2). In the formation of this ‘historic memory’, museums have played a crucial role as repositories of personal memories and as spaces via which transgenerational transfer of memory can take place (Williams 2017). Memorial museums, Williams (2017, p. 2) argues,



Fig. 3.2  The handmade kimono of a 7-month old child donated to Tokyo daikushu sensai shiryo centre by her 94-year old mother 62 years after she had lost her to the flames. (Source: Author 2018)

‘are at the forefront of imagining how visitors’ senses, thoughts and consciousnesses can be activated to produce meaningful encounters’ to construct shared memories. In particular, the more recent curatorial emphasis on the personalisation of exhibits, also evident in Japan, has involved what Williams defines as ‘the popularisation of a cosmopolitan “grief culture”’ (Williams 2017, p.  2). This has specifically ‘heighten[ed] the emotional drama’ of visitors’ experience, within which ‘tragic events form powerful moments of solidarity’ (Williams 2017, p. 2). It reflects a specific museumological discourse advocating a shift in their traditional role as exponents of ‘authorised narratives’ (see above for my definition of ‘authorised narrative discourse’). In transforming into ‘rarefied platform[s] for authentic experiences’, (Williams 2017, p. 10) museums may be seen as taking on a ‘therapeutic dimension’ as they ‘increasingly frame themselves as agents of social rehabilitation in the aftermath of violence’ (Williams 2017, p. 11;



see also Tunbridge and Ashworth 1996; Logan and Reeves 2009; Arnold-de Simine 2013). The gradual localisation and personalisation of the public remembering of wartime firebombing evident in Japan since the 1980s exemplifies this healing power. My recent visits to several locally instigated memory centres have revealed that they increasingly involved a practice of engaging survivors to act as volunteer guides. In sharing the memories of their ­wartime childhood with visitors, their live unscripted narration dramatically enhances the capability of such spaces to emotionally engage the visitors. More directly than any other means, these interactions act to both confirm the memories of other war generation visitors and to emotionally engage the identity of the later Japanese generations and of international visitors. Simultaneously physically present as live ‘representatives’ and as ‘living memories’, they enable the immediate intimate and person-to-­ person transmission of affect, engaging the visitor directly with the emotion of the memory of trauma. Tumarkin emphasises the importance of such methods in the narration and transmission of personal memories of trauma since they ‘take cognition (and emotion) out of the head at the same time as they “mess up” structural accounts of collective memories with bodies, feelings and experience’ (White 2006, p.  326, cited in Tumarkin 2013, p. 318).

Museumising Urbicide: Representing Trauma, Representing Place Community involvement in the remembrance of civilian wartime experience of urban bombing has naturally not been entirely absent in Japan. In relation to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this can be dated from 1952 with the opening of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Memorial Park. In 1955, an associated Peace Memorial Hall was established to house a collection of materials donated by Hiroshima residents following public appeals that had included a nation-wide appeal for children to tell their experiences (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017a, p.  114). In conjunction with this, an associated volunteer ‘A-bomb Materials Collection Support Group’ was formed to develop the task of collecting objects to expand the exhibition highlighting the impact of the atomic bombing (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017a).



Increasing popular local and foreign visitor interest in the growing collection of personalised testimonies to the catastrophic atomic bombing led to the construction of a new Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, opened in 1994. Further public appeals by the museum, notably in 2002 when, ‘fifty-seven years after the atomic bombing the average age of the hibakusha was over 70’, added a further 1338 drawings (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017b, p. 5). The Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum established in 1996 adopted a similar process to collect personal memories of the bombing of that city. The increasing emphasis on accumulating records of personal memories at the officially sanctioned Hiroshima and Nagasaki peace museums had slowly opened the door to a broader expression of Japanese victimhood within a framework of commitment to a narrative of international peace. This gradual democratisation of the official national peace narrative facilitated by changes in the curatorial processes developed at Hiroshima is increasingly the focus of international visitor interest and is influenced by museum practice abroad. These developments undoubtedly contributed to the growing momentum in Japan’s many other cities to remember victims of firebombing air raids and provided the model for these centres of memory.

Narrating the Trauma of Aerial Firebombing Many more Japanese experienced the effect of the napalm and petroleum jelly bombs during the one and a half years of relentless bombing of the country’s cities than directly experienced the atomic bombing. Indeed, the dark history of Japanese civilians’ experience of war on the home front can be said to have commenced in 1938, inflicted by the Japanese government with the passing of the National Mobilisation Law (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017a, p. 14). This law imposed on all Japanese citizens a war economy which progressively restricted and reduced their access to the basics of everyday life. It was increasingly reinforced and promoted by slogans such as ‘extravagance is the enemy’ and ‘do without until we win’ (Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017a, p.  15), and coincided with the loss of male family members through military conscription. By 1944, with the beginning of air raids, food, clothing and other everyday essentials were already in short supply and much of the male working-age population was deployed overseas. This left an impoverished civilian population, consisting overwhelmingly of women, the young and



the elderly, to experience the increasing hardship of everyday life as well as the impact of the firebombing air raids. As a consequence, the majority of the generation of contemporary witnesses and survivors of the firebombing were children, women and grandparents. It is their memories that now constitute the public displays in the emerging localised ‘memory centres’. Amongst the private institutions I visited during a recent field trip to Japan is the Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre (Centre for the Tokyo Raids and War Damage). Located in Koto ward, a ward within Tokyo Metropolitan area that in the 1940s was, and now still is, one of the most densely populated downtown districts of the city, it disproportionately experienced the impact of the firebombing. Its location as a site of a public space of remembrance is, therefore, most appropriate. As mentioned above, this district had already seen the establishment of an ‘Association to Record the Tokyo Air Raids’ in 1970, which had the aim of ‘actively collect[ing] artefacts and documents detailing the extent of these air raids and war damages’ (Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre n.d.). In the late 1990s, the aims of this private organisation were transformed in line with the broader trend outlined above. It redirected its focus to the construction of a purpose-built exhibition and memorial centre that was completed in 2002. While the Centre announces its commitment to the authorised national narrative of ‘pass[ing] on knowledge to future generations and to stimulate interaction of peace-loving individuals’ (Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre n.d.), the primary aim of this Centre is the collection of information as an educational centre for ‘Remembering the Great Tokyo Air raids’. For this, it employs an expanding network of volunteers to undertake an ongoing process of collecting the fading memories of the last years of the war. Since 2006, the Centre has embarked on a more formal program of research and the publication of books, guides and newsletters. The Centre’s motto, ‘Striving for Peace in the future by communicating the horrors of war’ (Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre n.d.), effectively links the specific remembrance of local traumatic memory to the established national discourse advocating world peace. One notable practice has been its emphasis on oral narrative. This involves encouraging older residents of the Koto ward and elsewhere from Tokyo who lived through the difficult time of war, to become involved in face-to-face interaction with children. This has become an important element of its educational mission to promote a generational transfer of the memory of a traumatic past (Tokyo Daikushu Densai Shiryo Centre n.d.). Apart from



specific children-related displays of the impact of firebombing on children and children-focused events and seminars, its emphasis on children is symbolised by the Children’s World Peace Statue. To assist visitors’ understanding, the Centre employs volunteers who, like the elegant person who accompanied me during my visit, are local people who directly experienced the wartime bombing themselves. Without intruding in the visitors’ interaction with displays, when asked they are able to provide a first-hand account of what they have experienced. In graphically describing what they had witnessed and depicting the trauma in a face-to-face context, the intertwined emotions of hopelessness, sadness and guilt that they have lived with become clearly evident and a meeting with such individuals can be overwhelming. One cannot leave such centres without also gaining a sense of the broader message of peace that these calm and cheerful survivors have a mission to transmit. Another memory place in Tokyo initiated by local citizens and supported by the local municipal government is the Sumida Kyodo Bunka Shiryokan (Sumida Regional Cultural Resource Centre). This exhibition space opened in 2003 and similarly reflects this relatively recent phenomenon of increased public interest in the transmission of traumatic wartime memories. Representing the experience of local residents, a public collection of visual evidence of the impact of the Tokyo firebombing air raids also began in the early 2000s. An exhibition was inaugurated after a public appeal in 2003 which resulted in 123 people offering around 300 paintings depicting their wartime memories to the museum (Sumida Kyodo Bunka Shiryokan 2005). Importantly also, this initiative came from the local community rather than local, prefectural or national levels of government, and thus can be regarded as another example of the emerging grassroots movement to make public and pass on memories in the hope that the next generation can learn from the past. Like the collection in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, the paintings on display here are the work of ordinary people, who may never have made drawings or paintings before. They depict a wide range of situations and events reflecting Tokyo residents’ personal memories of their experience of the firebombing. Although a small space, here too, visitors are overwhelmed by the power of these evocative depictions and the personal testimonies that accompany them. In Osaka, an important memory space is the publicly funded Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre (Osaka International Peace Centre). From humble



origins as the Osaka Heiwa Kinen Shiryoshitu (Osaka prefecture pray for peace war document room), it opened in 1981 occupying a small room in the Osaka Prefectural Social Welfare Centre (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre n.d.). Since then, this institution has progressively expanded in both physical size and aims and it opened in its present form and location in 1991. As of 2017, the centre had attracted 2 million visitors. Representing a ‘memorial to Osaka air raids victims’, central to its activities is the ‘collection, preservation, maintenance and exhibition of materials on war and peace’ and the dissemination through publications and seminars and information (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre n.d.). It is structured to take the visitor through displays that go beyond a depiction of the firebombing. The exhibition consecutively represents life during the war period, from 1937 to beyond 1945, and includes the era of post-war reconstruction and presentations on world peace. Displays also include depictions of the life of children and their contribution to the war effort through their involvement in labour activities. By including these, it draws heavily on the personal memory of what are now the senior members of the local community. The entire exhibition space is redolent with personal memories of the local experience of the firebombing expressed through collections of objects, drawings, photographs and texts. Nevertheless, when the Osaka International Peace Centre was recently reconstituted (2014) and reopened in 2015, it came with a renewal of the official narrative of world peace (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre n.d.). At the opening of its inaugural Peace Osaka Exhibition it was stated that: Even now, war and conflict persists in the world. In the past, our country also caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people in the war, especially the people of the Asian countries. It also lost many precious lives as the only atomic bombed country. Only knowing about the misery of warfare and experiencing it, will not ensure that peace will come. What is required is that each and every one of us think about what is peace, what to do for it, and what we can do, and realise what we can do now. (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre 2015)

As Osaka is a city that experienced firebombing rather than atomic bombing, this represents another example of a local institution incorporating into its local mission and resources the established national message of world peace first projected at Hiroshima. Thus, its aim is:



To remember the victims of the air aids in Osaka, pray for peace, collect, preserve and exhibit information on the war experiences of the people of Osaka centring on the air raids and the misery of war; to develop respect for peace in order to nurture a rich heart in the next generation that wishes for peace; to contribute to world peace. (Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre n.d.)

Reflection Common to these and the many other ‘memory centres’ that have been created in urban Japan to remember the history of the death and destruction caused by firebombing air raids, are the testimonies of survivors. It is these, whether as written or spoken, or in the form of starkly simple drawings, that embrace the museum visitor with their powerful emotive affect and demand their engagement. As the foregoing has shown, the public expression of the memories of the witnesses to these events has been a relatively recent phenomenon. Opportunity for these individuals to speak had long been denied both by the dominant international and national ‘authorised narrative’ and by the resultant absence of public spaces to voice alternative histories. But equally, as these witnesses themselves attest to, silence was a result of the psychological scars left by their traumatic experience. The trauma they carried in their memory as survivors or as recipients of memories transmitted through multiple bonds of emotional attachment to the victims and the survivors had prevented people from speaking. In recent decades, these obstacles have been progressively dismantled. As noted above, the passing of time has been a relevant factor, with the aging and gradual disappearance of the generation of witnesses and survivors adding a sense of urgency to record this history. Globally, the ‘legitimation’ of trauma as a real psychosocial condition, underscored by the curatorial practices of modern museums, has, as it were, given permission, also in Japan, for individuals to give public testimony of their traumatic memory. Far from challenging the older commitment to peace, the journey towards being finally able to testify as survivor and witness has provided an alternative and more persuasive justification for a commitment to it. The relatively recent and growing phenomenon of local community-­ based remembering of the firebombing air raids of Japan’s cities reflects a growing social recognition of the significance of the personal trauma it gave rise to. Initially silenced and ‘put aside’, over time the cumulative emotional force of this widely experienced personal trauma has come to



construct a broader social narrative to command its public ownership as a collective trauma. Trauma, as Fassin and Rechtman (2009, p.  20) have stressed, ‘is both the product of an experience of inhumanity and proof of the humanity of those who endured it’. In Japan, a carefully constructed post-war narrative has ultimately failed to paper over the essential humanity expressed in the suffering of millions of its citizens. Described as a ‘forgotten holocaust’ (Selden 2007, p.  10), evidence of the destruction and death inflicted by the wartime aerial bombing had essentially lain buried under the concrete achievements of Japan’s post-war reconstruction. It is now being unearthed through the retrieval of the traumatic memories of those who experienced these events. Collated in public peace centres, a social memory is being assembled through its representation in a variety of narrative forms and objects. Their powerful emotive force provides the means that allow visitors to resource centres and museums to connect to the victims’ traumatic past. Memory is ‘[m]ultilayered and hybrid at the boundaries of psychology and culture, the individual and society’ (Albano 2016, p. 33). It is inevitably subject to ‘historical remembrance and global resonances’ as well as ‘mental processes and technologies of recording’ (Albano 2016, p. 33). In Japan, the growing number of peace museums and centres curating the personal memories of the trauma of the fire and atomic bombing of Japanese cities reflects this multilayered interaction between individual and society, the personal and collective memory, as mediated by a variety of interpretative methods and forms of narration. This public embrace of a narrative of personal suffering reflects a gradual shift from an internationally focussed ‘peace message’ to a contested perception of national victimhood. Rather than the years allowing memories to be put aside or suppressed, the growing attention to the memorialisation of personal wartime trauma appears to be gaining greater attention. With it emerges a more detailed and more uncomfortable historical knowledge. In disseminating this social memory, the personalisation of a ‘difficult history’ in Japan, as elsewhere, is being mediated by museums. Globally, museums as ‘repositories of memories within culture’ (Albano 2016, p. 34) are ‘being transformed into forums for memory communities and for the communicative memory of eyewitnesses to historical events’ (Arnold-de Simine 2013, p. 12). Through representation in simple drawings or a few simple sentences, or in the experience of meeting with ordinary people, the survivor volunteers, in public memory spaces, large-scale horrific historical events are amplified to isolated, personalised instances.



In this way, they allow the visitor to more readily share vicariously the personal emotion of traumatic experience. These ‘dynamic processes of conscious and unconscious retrieval [of memory]’ (Arnold-de Simine 2013, p.  12), in Japan and elsewhere, are undoing ‘authorised national narratives’ to reveal the nation’s dissonant heritage. History has been reluctant to allow them to speak but today, as Fassin and Rechtman (2009, p. 22) suggest, ‘the role of the trauma survivor […] once merely a victim, has become a witness to the horrors of our age’. How long can this remain silent or silenced? Reflecting on his own role in the firebombing strategy in a 2003 documentary, The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara directed by Errol Morris, former US Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara recalls his conversation with Curtis LeMay, the key architect of the US bombing strategy, acknowledging ‘If we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals’. McNamarra continues (Morris 2003, 42.5–43.5 minutes): And I think he’s right. He, and I’d say, aye, we were behaving as war criminals. […] LeMay recognised that what he was doing would be thought immoral if his side had lost. But what makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?

This chapter is dedicated to all those who have suffered from the flames.

Notes 1. Great Kanto Earthquake, 1 September 1923. 2. In 2005, in time to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, his novel provided the basis of a live-action TV drama by Nippon TV.

References Albano, C 2016, Memory, forgetting and the moving image, Palgrave Macmillan, London. Arnold-de Simine, S 2013, Mediating memory in the museum: Trauma, empathy, nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke. Dower, JW 1995, ‘The bombed: Hiroshimas and Nagasakis in Japanese memory’, Diplomatic History, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 275–95.



Fassin, D & Rechtman, TR 2009, The empire of trauma: An inquiry into the condition of victimhood, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Fedman, D & Karacas, C 2012, ‘A cartographic fade to black: Mapping the destruction of urban Japan during World War II’, Journal of Historical Geography, vol. 38, no. 3, pp. 306–28. Hashimoto, A 2015, The long defeat cultural trauma, memory, and identity in Japan, New York: Oxford University Press. Hiroshima Heiwa Kinen Shiryokan 2017a [1999], Zuroku: Hiroshima wo sekaini, Hiroshima heiwa kinen shiryokan/Bunkasya, Hiroshima. ——— 2017b [2007], Genbakuno e: Hiroshima o tsutaeru, Iwanami shyoten, Tokyo. Hirschberger, G 2018, ‘Collective trauma and the social construction of meaning’, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 9, no. 1441, pp. 1–14. Igarashi, Y 2000, Bodies of memory: Narratives of war in postwar Japanese culture, 1945–1970, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Kawada, S 1983, ‘Osaka dai-kusyhyu no kiroku: hahaoya kara kodomotachi e’, in Osaka dai-kushyu no taiken o katarukai (ed.), Sanseido, Tokyo, p. 78. Logan, W & Reeves, K (eds.) 2009, Places of pain and shame: Dealing with ‘difficult heritage’, Routledge, London. Miyamoto, Y 2011, Beyond the mushroom cloud: Commemoration, religion, and responsibility after Hiroshima, Fordham University Press, New York. Morris, E 2003, The fog of war: Eleven lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara, Morris, E, Williams, M & Ahlberg, J, United States of America, 21 May (Cannes) 9 December 2003. Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. Nagasaki Genbaku Shiryokan n.d., Nagasaki genbaku shiryokan, Nagasaki genbaku shiryokan, Nagasaki. Nihon terebi 2018, Tokyo daikushu ireisai, viewed 5 April 2018, http://www. Orr, JJ 2001, The victim as hero: Ideologies of peace and national identity in postwar Japan, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu. Osaka Kokusai Heiwa Centre 2013 [2011], Shashin de miru Osaka kushyu, Osaka kokusai heiwa centre, Osaka. ——— 2015, Yookoso peace Osaka e, Osaka kokusai heiwa centre, Osaka. ——— n.d., Enkaku, Osaka kokusai heiwa centre, Osaka. Saito, H 2006, ‘Reiterating commemoration: Hiroshima as national trauma’, Sociological Theory, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 353–76. Sankei Shimbun 2015, Yodogawajiki ni jyogakuseira sennin ijyo no itai, viewed 28 March 2017, wst1505090049-n1.html. Schaffer, R 1985, Wings of judgment: American bombing in World War II, Oxford University Press, New York.



Schwabe, DT 2015, Burning Japan: Air force bombing strategy change in the Pacific, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. Selden, M 2007, ‘A forgotten Holocaust: US bombing strategy, the destruction of Japanese cities & the American way of war from World War II to Iraq’, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Japan Focus, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 1–29. Sumida Kyodo Bunka Shiryokan 2005, Anohiwo wasurenai, Sumida kyodo bunka shiryokan, Tokyo. Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryo Centre. n.d., Tokyo daikushu sensai shiryo centre, Tokyo daikushu sensai shiryo centre, Tokyo. Tokyo Ireikyokai 2012, Tokyo Ireikyokai, viewed 20 November 2017, http:// Tokyo Shimbun 2015, ‘Sengo 70 nen. kushyu higai’, Tokyo Shimbun, 2 August, viewed 20 April 2018, CK2015073002100013.html. Tumarkin, M 2013, ‘Crumbs of memory: Tracing the “more-than-­representational” in family memory’, Memory Studies, vol. 6, no. 3, pp. 310–20. Tunbridge, JE & Ashworth, GJ 1996, Dissonant heritage: The management of the past as a resource in conflict; Chichester; New York Wiley. Williams, P 2017, ‘The personalisation of loss in memorial museums’, in P Hamilton & J Gardner (eds.), The Oxford handbook of public history, Oxford University Press Online, New York, pp. 1–21, rdhb/9780199766024.013.20. Yamabe, M 2011, ‘Thinking now about the great Tokyo air raid’, Asia-Pacific Journal, vol. 9, no. 3–5, pp. 1–6.


No Place to Remember: Haunting and the Search for Mass Graves in Indonesia Annie Pohlman

This chapter considers the politics of social memory in contemporary Indonesia by exploring the search for the mass graves of those murdered during the mass killings of communists in 1965–1966. There are thousands—potentially tens of thousands—of mass graves across the country that hold the remains of an estimated one million people (Cribb 2001; McGregor et  al. 2018). During these purges, the Indonesian army and co-opted civilian militias captured and killed men, women, and children because of their suspected communist sympathies, dumping their bodies into pits, ravines, and rivers. Indonesia has never come to terms with these killings: these places are unmarked, and their dead cannot be mentioned in a country which still celebrates their murder (Wieringa 2019). Yet the dead are not quiet: each of these mass graves is an open secret to nearby locals, and most of these places are haunted. In a country where there is no place to remember or commemorate the dead of 1965, I focus on the work of two men, Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris,1 who are attempting to map the locations of the mass graves. Both belong

A. Pohlman (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




to a non-government organisation, a survivor network called the YPKP 1965–1966, or the Foundation for Research into the Victims of the 1965–1966 Massacres, and it is through the various branches of this foundation that they locate these graves. As they travel around the country, they photograph the gravesites they find and the people who lead them to them, and then post these photographs on their Facebook pages. Most of the photographs taken by Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris take in a range of sites: an open field, trees along a riverbank, a small clearing in a forest, an old water tower, even an old gravesite, overgrown with plants. Sometimes a bare patch of ground is the focus of the photo, with unremarkable grass and earth taking up the entire frame, or a dirt path running between rows of palm trees. Some of the photographs show two or three old men standing or moving around in these otherwise empty landscapes. Some of these are of the men, lined up together, standing posed for the photographer to capture them as a group. Usually when these men appear, however, they are pointing towards places in the landscape (e.g. Fig. 4.1). To discuss the search by Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris for the mass graves of 1965, I first sketch a brief account of these massacres and the memory politics of the military regime which perpetrated them. I then examine the consequences of the dead’s ‘bad deaths’ and the interruption of necessary mortuary rituals. As told through the testimonies of survivors and victims’ relatives, the bad deaths have created haunted, uncanny sites (angker): they are affective places where the dead are felt as a ‘seething presence’ amongst the living (Gordon 2008, p.  200). In the second part of this chapter, I turn to the spectre of these mass graves in the contemporary Indonesian socio-political landscape. Specifically, I discuss the search for these mass grave sites by the two men who, over the past few years, have travelled across different parts of the archipelago to document their locations. Their search for the dead of 1965 is one that follows and creates traces of memory. They create the Facebook posts as evidence—as efforts for truth-telling—in the face of ongoing impunity and enforced political amnesia about the anti-communist massacres of 1965. The photographs showing a clearing in a forest, or a riverbank, are where the dead lie; the bare patch of earth is what lies between the photographer and the remains of those for whom he searches. As the survivors and direct witnesses to these massacres pass away, their search has become an urgent attempt to collect as much evidence, and as many mass grave locations, as they can in the time they have left. Lastly, I reflect on this search for the dead and the



Fig. 4.1  A man standing and pointing into the landscape, Grobogan regency, Central Java. (Posted on Facebook, 19 February 2018, photograph by Pak Bedjo [used with permission])

seeming impossibility that they will ever be recovered, their bad deaths meaning they will never be at rest.

A Cold War Massacre and Indonesia’s Cult of Anti-Communism The many thousands of mass graves are the remains of a political genocide of the Cold War, the human residue of an atrocity gone almost unnoticed on the world stage, but profound in its effects on Indonesian society (Stroud 2015). An attempted coup in the capital, Jakarta, in the early morning of 1 October 1965 set into motion the Indonesian military’s established plans to wrest power from then President Sukarno and to take over the state (Melvin 2018). General Suharto, who was in charge of the



army unit based in the capital that put down the coup attempt, took command of military forces and staged his own coup. Suharto blamed the 1 October attempted coup on the military’s main rival for political power, the mass-supported Indonesian Community Party (known as the PKI, Partai Komunis Indonesia). He and the Army’s upper echelons mobilised the country’s military, sidelining Sukarno and civilian government, and carried out a pervasive propaganda campaign against the PKI. This propaganda portrayed the PKI and its supporters as treacherous ‘betrayers’ of the nation (Drakeley 2007). More than that, communists were depicted as dangerous, sometimes supernaturally evil beings who were a direct threat to their neighbours, spreading a popular fear and inciting violence against them (Wieringa 2002; Pohlman 2014). The Indonesian Army recruited and armed militias across the country and together they killed between 500,000 and one million men, women, and children because of their alleged ‘communist sympathies’ and imprisoned an estimated 1.5 million others in detention camps, where many died from torture, disease, and forced labour (McGregor et al. 2018). Suharto established a military-backed regime, the New Order, which remained in power until 1998. Throughout the New Order, the regime used the spectre of a potential communist resurgence to justify and legitimise the military’s role in civilian affairs; in essence, the military had saved the country from the evils of communism, but they could never let down their guard, lest the PKI return and overthrow the nation (Heryanto 2006). As such, the regime maintained tight control of this official narrative surrounding the events of 1965. Survivors of the massacres and concentration camps, and their family members, had numerous restrictions placed on their movement and other freedoms, and were subject to social surveillance and stigmatisation because of their communist background (Southwood and Flanagan 1983). Now more than twenty years after the fall of Suharto, the anti-­ communism of the New Order lives on. As Miller (2018) has documented, anti-communist discourse has survived and morphed during the so-called ‘Reform’ era of democracy (1998–the present), to become a powerful tool of hard-right and neo-fascist groups who use this discourse to attack more liberal groups or agendas. These same hard-right groups also use anti-­ communist rhetoric against survivors of the 1965 purges and their advocates, sometimes attacking them through violent means, such as by burning down their premises or with physical assaults and intimidation (see Amnesty International 2017). Speaking about 1965  in Indonesia



therefore remains a risky business: those who do are vulnerable to attacks and intimidation from such groups (Pohlman 2013b). Now more than fifty years on since these massacres so fundamentally shifted the socio-political and cultural landscape of Indonesia—and reshaped its polity—there is yet to be an opening up of this dark period in the country’s history.2 Certainly there will not be an open reckoning with this history within the lifetimes of those who directly experienced, perpetrated, or survived these massacres, if ever. In this way, Indonesia is a clear example of a country whose leaders choose not to deal with the past: not to investigate past wrongs; not to condemn perpetrators of mass atrocity crimes; not to apologise for crimes committed by the state; and not to provide survivors and victims’ families with any measure of justice, let alone redress or reparation. Despite these seemingly insurmountable hurdles, and in the face of direct threats and intimidation, survivors and their advocates continue their ‘memory work’ of recording testimony by survivors and witnesses, and commemorating those who suffered and died (see McGregor 2017). This memory work is in direct opposition to, and attempts to refute in consciously political ways, the New Order’s hegemonic narrative celebrating the massacres; a narrative in which communist supporters, because of their alleged evils, deserved their just and brutal punishment (Pohlman 2016). The search for the mass graves of 1965 carried out by the YPKP is a critical part of this work. In the search for these graves, for places where the dead may lie (however unquietly), survivors such as Pak Bedjo and Pak Aris are seeking not only evidence of atrocity, they are seeking places as (to be/act as) witness for atrocity, as places of historical truths which refute the State’s version of Indonesia’s history. The memory work to be done at, and through, these mass graves sites is therefore partly this explicit political claim to truth-telling. But this memory work is also about recovery: to recover, and rehabilitate through memorialisation, the many hundreds of thousands of anonymous dead whose bad deaths mean they can never rest.

Bad Deaths and the Haunting of Mass Graves ‘These places are almost always haunted (angker), you understand?’ explains Pak Bedjo, ‘People won’t go near them, or past them, they wouldn’t dare’.3 Pak Bedjo and I are sitting in a café in Jakarta: Pak Bedjo is the leader of the largest victims’ organisation in Indonesia, the YPKP,



and is one of the two men from this organisation who have been investigating and mapping the locations of mass grave sites. Pak Bedjo has patiently been answering my questions for about an hour by this point, telling me about their investigations, how they organise them, and about some of the places they have been to and the people they have met over the last few years. The word he uses to describe the graves is angker, a Javanese term that means a range of states and emotions in English: ghostlike, uncanny, and terrible, but with inflections of meanings related to what is sacred and/or taboo, perhaps even enchanted. There are also definite associations with feelings of discomfort and fright (Wessing 2006). This is not the first time someone has used this word with me to describe mass graves and the dead of 1965: indeed, over the past two decades while conducting interviews with survivors of this period, some have taken me to grave locations, and told me about the spirits that haunt them. On one such occasion, a man who was a survivor of the camps in Yogyakarta, on the south coast of Java, rode with me on the back of his motorbike for about an hour to the middle of a tree plantation. The man, Pak Karto (a pseudonym), stopped near the edge of a very large sinkhole: approximately 30 or 40 metres across and deep enough that I could not see to the bottom, it was a collapsed doline (or sinkhole) in the limestone underground cave system that runs for miles in that part of Central Java. As we stood there, Pak Karto explained how, for night after night between late 1965 and early 1966, truckloads of detainees had been brought to the site from a nearby camp and executed en masse: the victims were forced to the edge of the sinkhole, and then they would either be shot or have their throats cut, and then their bodies would fall into the hole. An underground river that flowed through the bottom of the cave system then carried their bodies out to the ocean on Java’s south coast (Fig. 4.2). Standing on the edge of the site where thousands had been murdered, Pak Karto explained that this place was angker. This was the first time I had heard this term, and so I asked him what it meant. He explained that the spirits of those killed remained sometimes, that they stayed (tetap), lingering near the edge of the hole because they were somehow the remains (sisa) of what had happened there. He also explained that this place was therefore always quiet (diam) because people stayed away.4 This was not the last mass grave site that survivors took me to, nor was it the last time these sites were described in similar terms: the dead seemed to be tied to the places where their bodies lay or to where the violence against



Fig. 4.2  A sinkhole in the Gunung Sewu karst region, Central Java. (Photo by author)

them had been done, and the sense of haunting was tangled up with their having some kind of left-over residue in this world. Pak Karto and I stayed at the sinkhole for about an hour that day, while he told me stories of how people had been murdered there. At the end, he told me that it was time to go; we had stayed too long already. More than a dozen years later as I sat across the table from Pak Bedjo, I wanted to know how his journeys to different parts of the country to find the mass graves from 1965 had led him to these haunted places. I asked Pak Bedjo if people who live near these gravesites believe they are haunted, and why. He paused for a moment and then answered, ‘Haunted, yes. For most people I would say, though, these are places which also need to be respected, like a kind of sacred place, almost like a spiritual (suci) place’. He explained that these places were usually avoided, and that this avoidance was partly about fear but also about respect (hormat).



The fear and respect associated with the dead, and with the places belonging to the dead, are familiar. Indonesia is one of the most ethnically, culturally, and religiously diverse nations in the world, yet there are many similarities between the rituals and observances for the dead which I have witnessed across different parts of Sumatra and Java, the two main islands where I have conducted fieldwork (see Pohlman 2015). In most of these contexts, local traditions are heavily influenced by Indonesian Islamic customs, themselves the product of hundreds of years of syncretic accretion between local religious cultures and Islam (Laffan 2003). Making a trip to the gravesites of loved ones and ancestors, for example, is part of Ruwahan (the period leading up to the fasting month, Ramadan) observances; one might also make a pilgrimage at this time to the tombs of saints or particularly powerful dead people. Called nyadran, these pilgrimages are done to make offerings, scatter flowers, repair tombs, and do the prayers, Quranic recitations, and other rituals necessary to show respect to the dead and, in turn, to receive their blessings (Woodward 2010). Nyadran and similar rituals to show respect to the dead are part of a multitude of such observances across different parts of Indonesia, which are an important part of managing tangible and intangible actors and environments. Within the customary practices associated with the living and the dead across many cultures in Indonesia—Islam-influenced or otherwise—there are countless rituals, offerings, and other observances that are carried out in order to manage relations with ancestors, spirits, special kinds of spirits or otherworldly creatures, and sometimes deities (Chambert-Loir and Reid 2002). For many of these cultures, ‘the total community comprises not only the living but also the dead’ (Schärer 1963, p. 142); without the proper observance of these rituals for the dead, these relations cannot be maintained, and this can mean potentially dire consequences for the living (Garrard-Burnett 2015). Mortuary rituals are a critical part of these customary observances for maintaining relations between the living and the dead. Ceremonial rituals are an important part at all times when particular cycles or changes must be observed, and all involve the dead/ancestors in some way: at birth, death, circumcision, marriage, harvest and so forth (on Java, see Pemberton 1994; Wessing 2006; on Flores, Allerton 2009). Death marks a critical and often dangerous point in the cycle: as the body and the soul separate, the soul’s safe passage to the land of the dead must be taken care of, lest it wander and potentially contaminate others or stray too far. The corpse and its passage over time to complete decay are also dangerous to others; the



smells of decaying flesh, and any fluids from the corpse, must be guarded against lest they also contaminate others (Hertz 1960; Siegel 1983). A ‘bad’ death can come in many forms and have different consequences. Death by unnatural means, particularly a violent death, or a death caused by sorcery or other supernatural interference, can create a disturbance in living–dead relations (Barraud and Platenkamp 1990; Schröter 1998). The consequences of a bad death and the upset/disorder of these relations can be grave. Without the safe passage from death to the land of the dead (and thus to become an ancestor), there is the potential for the spirit to become malformed and evil. The suanggi of North Maluku and a similar variant, the o tokata of Halmahera, are some examples of malevolent spirits ‘of the dead whose danger is associated with the deceased’s incomplete transformation into an ancestor spirit’ (Bubandt 2014, p. 84). Such creatures feed off the living and are consumed by greed, anger, and malicious sexual desire; ‘often this dangerous and intermediary status between the living and the ancestors is related to violent death and the lack of proper ritual transformation through a burial ceremony’ (Bubandt 2014, p. 84; see also Platenkamp 1988). Burial ceremonies, mourning rites, and other observances at certain points following a person’s death are all necessary to see that the soul completes the journey to the land of the dead and that the flow of relationships between the living and the dead are maintained; without such rituals, blockages and disorder can occur (Fox 1973; Schröter 1998). A bad death does not always result in the spirit becoming stuck, or malformed, but the risks of such would-be interruptions/disorders are treated seriously because of their potentially calamitous consequences for the whole community. In stories told about the haunting of mass graves from 1965, the unnatural and violent deaths of the people murdered often tie their spirits to these sites. Pak Bedjo’s explanation that the mass graves are both haunted and respected (or even sacred) places is therefore a familiar one, as are the stories which he then recounts about particular mass graves being inhabited by those who were killed there.5 Such places are inherently powerful because of the violence done there and the haunting by the residue of the souls attached to these locations. As ghosts or spirits, the dead who haunt these mass graves are described in many ways: sometimes as vengeful or malevolent, sometimes as highly benevolent and able to bestow blessings upon those who seek them, at other times as mischievous. Pak Bedjo’s stories of mysterious phenomena occurring at gravesites are also similar to those that I have heard from other survivors over the last two decades. For



example, one story that he tells about a bulldozer stopping for no reason, because the spirits at the grave outside Medan did not want to have their ground disturbed, is similar to stories I was told years earlier about motorbikes cutting out if driven too close to mass graves in West Sumatra.6 Above all, the haunting of the 1965 mass graves is connected to the violence that was done in those places. While the violence perpetrated may continue to be justified, and even celebrated, by many in Indonesia, there is no denial that the violence itself was brutal and that those who were murdered died ‘bad’ deaths. There is also no question that the places where these bad deaths were perpetrated will forever be haunted by the dead, particularly as the proper funerary rituals were never performed for them (Ida Bagus 2012). In most parts of Indonesia, the locations of mass graves are an ‘open secret’ (rahasia umum) (Roosa 2016). The grave locations—as with the violence of 1965–1966 more generally—are rarely spoken about openly, and yet most local community members will know where they are, and avoid them. Such public secrets are critical for understanding what must be known but never articulated. As Michael Taussig askes, ‘Yet what if the truth is not so much a secret as a public secret, as is the case with the most important social knowledge, knowing what not to know?’ (1999, p. 2, emphasis in original). The bad deaths of the hundreds of thousands murdered after 1965 mean that they will never lie quietly. They haunt the locations where they were murdered, but they also haunt Indonesia’s past and present, unsettling current-day social and political life as an unrelenting reminder of past injustices and a demand for accountability. As Leigh Gilmore explains, the trauma of 1965 turns ‘history into haunting’ so that the dead ‘erupt from [their] manageable confines’ and ‘are no longer persons who lived in the past, but angry, bitter, and mournful ghosts’ (2001, p. 82). For sociologist Avery Gordon, this eruption of the dead into the present, the haunting by the dead, is felt as a ‘seething presence’ for the living (2008, p. xvi). As Gordon explains, haunting is ‘an animated state in which a repressed or unresolved social violence is making itself known […] Haunting always registers the harm inflicted or the loss sustained by a social violence done in the past or being done in the present and is for this reason quite frightening. But haunting, unlike trauma by contrast, is distinctive for producing a something-to-be-done’ (2011, p.  2). It is precisely this ‘something-to-be-done’ which drives those who would break the silence that surrounds and guards the violent history of 1965. For survivors such as Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris, the search for the mass graves



from this period is therefore intimately tied to their wider struggles for an open and honest acknowledgement of the harm done, and reparations made to restore the dignity of both survivors and the dead.

Evidence, Truth-Telling, and the Search for Mass Graves About a week before meeting Pak Bedjo, I met Mas Aris, who is his colleague from the YPKP and who helps with the search for mass graves. The first question I ask him is how many mass graves the two men have mapped over the past few years. More than 220, he tells me; a year or so before, they had mapped around 100 graves, but they have worked hard over the past year, and so the total had more than doubled.7 I ask how many graves he thought there might be across Indonesia. Thousands, he replies, maybe more. The work by survivors to locate and document the mass graves of 1965 began almost immediately after the New Order government fell in 1998. At first, the hope was that some graves might be exhumed, and the remains potentially identified, so that they could be returned to families for proper reburial. In November 2000, one of the founders of the YPKP, the late Ibu Sulami Djoyoprawiro, led an exhumation of one grave located in Situkup forest, outside the mountain town of Wonosobo in Central Java. Recruiting the help of a forensics expert, and working with local community groups, the exhumation itself went well (McGregor 2012). Many survivors and their family members from the area attended the exhumation, even though they did not believe any of their loved ones were buried in that grave. As Katharine McGregor reflects, this first exhumation had strong ‘symbolic importance’ within the survivor community; ‘the opening of this grave represented the first opportunity to witness evidence of the atrocities in which they had lost family members’ (2012, p. 243). The following year when it came time to rebury some of the remains exhumed, however, the YPKP members and the other survivors gathered for the ceremony were violently attacked by local ultra-conservative Islamist groups, and many of the remains were destroyed (McGregor 2012). While there have been a small handful of exhumations of other mass graves since then, these have been done very quietly, to avoid similar attacks by right-­ wing and Islamist groups.8 The hope that any large-scale effort might be made to exhume and identify remains has long since been abandoned.9



For the survivor groups which formed in the wake of the fall of authoritarianism in 1998, locating mass grave sites has nevertheless often been a part of their truth-seeking activities (McGregor 2012; Pohlman 2013a). The YPKP, which is the largest of these groups and which has local branches of survivors scattered across the archipelago, has collected information about grave locations for nearly two decades as part of their work to identify victims of the killings and mass detentions, much of this data-­ gathering done through their testimony-based programs with survivors. In the 2000s and 2010s, these organisations run by survivors and their advocates, like the YPKP, have sometimes used places where mass killings were perpetrated, or the locations of mass graves, to hold commemorations. These commemorations temporarily mark out the spaces where violence is known to have occurred.10 Often prayers, mourning rituals, and other observances are performed by victims’ families for their loved ones whose remains lie in places which are almost always unknown. Less than a handful of these places have any kind of physical marker to lay claim to these sites: the only one that officially marks a mass grave is in the forest near the village of Plumbon in Central Java (Wieringa 2019). The Plumbon marker was only laid in 2015 after extensive consultation with local religious and village leaders.11 Some survivors and their advocates have also created books, photography exhibitions, short documentary films, and websites which highlight the places where massacres occurred, or grave sites, or concentration camps (see Bräuchler 2009; McGregor 2009; Pohlman 2013a, 2016). Such documentary and creative materials draw heavily on survivors’ testimonies to reconstruct ‘true’ histories of these locations; true in the sense that they foreground the stories and suffering of victims in order to displace what are described as the ‘silenced’ or hidden histories of these places (membungkam kebenaran).12 The language of these materials is firmly that of uncovering hidden crimes, truth-seeking, and truth-speaking as a consciously political act, against the state’s official version of events (see Pohlman 2016). Twenty years on, the original survivors of 1965 are rapidly disappearing and, with them, many of the groups which they formed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. When I had the opportunity to interview Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris about mapping the graves, and about how they post some of their investigations on their Facebook pages, I also asked about their renewed impetus for this work. After all, the YPKP has been collecting information from survivors for two decades, but the majority of their mass



grave investigations have happened only in the last few years. In separate interviews, both men responded that it is vital that the ‘evidence’ (bukti) be collected and preserved, while those who can find it remain. Both emphasised that, as the direct witnesses are passing away, time is running out. There is also a broader context for their renewed emphasis on mapping the grave locations. In late 2015, to mark fifty years since the start of the massacres, a large group of survivors, Indonesian and foreign academics and advocates joined together to hold the International People’s Tribunal for 1965. Due to security reasons, the Tribunal was held in the Netherlands where the panel of judges found the Indonesian state guilty of a long list of crimes against humanity (Wieringa et  al. 2019). In response, the Indonesian government was moved to hold a ‘National Symposium’ on 1965 in April 2016, which included more than 200 people from the government and military as well as from survivor groups (McGregor and Purdey 2016). Nothing came of the symposium; it turned out to be yet another facile gesture made by the current administration towards ‘resolving’ past human rights abuses. The then Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security, Luhut Panjaitan (a retired Army general), made the administration’s position clear when he stated that the government would not apologise for the killings and expressed his doubts over the number of people killed; after the Symposium he stated that ‘until today, we’ve not found one mass grave’ (BBC Indonesia 2016, my translation). Provoked by this statement, Pak Bedjo and others from the YPKP compiled a list of mass grave locations that they had mapped up until that point; in early May 2016 he gave a list of 122 mass grave locations across Java and Sumatra to the National Human Rights Commission (Wieringa 2019).13 While Pak Bedjo and his team at the YPKP had certainly already been carrying out the work of locating mass graves, the April 2016 symposium seemed to spur an increased level of activity. By the following year, Pak Bedjo began posting more regularly about their mass grave investigations on his personal Facebook pages, as well as on the YPKP website. By the end of 2017, he and Mas Aris were regularly posting photographs and sometimes short videos of gravesite locations, documenting their travels and the people they met. The photographs show the mostly empty landscapes of the graves: forest plantations, open fields, ravines, and riverbanks where unknown numbers of victims were put in the ground. Others are of old men pointing to empty places in these landscapes. The photographs



also focus on the faces of the old men and women in the local area who have led Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris to these graves, or told them stories about the killings in that area. In their online posts, Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris often give short quotes from these local people’s testimonies, highlighting the parts of their stories that describe where and how the killings were perpetrated. Most of these old men and women are survivors from the local area, while some of the men are former perpetrators, or those who helped the military and militias, such as by digging pits to hold bodies. The man on the left in Fig. 4.3 was a 12-year-old boy when his father was imprisoned in 1965; the man on the right was detained for his alleged communist connections. In my interviews with Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris, I asked them how they go about setting up their investigations, and about finding the ‘bukti’ (evidence) of the gravesites. These two men from the YPKP are by no means

Fig. 4.3  Two local men pointing into the landscape, near Kradenan, Central Java. (Posted on Facebook, 21 February 2018, photograph by Pak Bedjo [used with permission])



the only ones trying to locate the mass graves of 1965; local groups make some smaller-scale attempts to find graves from time to time, and they also often make their discoveries available online.14 As Pak Bedjo explained, ‘We’re fortunate in that the YPKP has a vast network, branches in the towns and regions and they’re the ones who know [where the graves are]’. He then gave a list of examples of gravesites they had visited over the past year. He explained that, within a particular region, the local YPKP survivor group always invites him to come, ‘They want us to come, to find these places.’ In my interview with Mas Aris, he also emphasised how they work with local survivors at each location, coordinating their investigations with the locals so that everyone is included. When they go to a region, as Mas Aris explained, they start by meeting with the members of the local YPKP branch, often holding some kind of forum for survivors in the area. These forums are a critical part of their inclusive strategy, but they are also used by Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris as ways to communicate and disseminate information. As Mas Aris clarified, the forums allow them to hand out publications (such as the YPKP’s own publication, ‘Our Voice’ (Soera Kita), but also others related to 1965), and to let people in the regions know about their programs. Pak Bedjo also talked about the information that he shared with survivors through these forums, particularly about the LPSK (the Witness and Victim Protection Agency) program, which is a limited government compensation scheme that offers some eligible victims of past human rights abuses access to health care. In the days following the forum, one or two of the locals then take them to the mass graves. Aside from disseminating information and making efforts to include victims and their families from each of the local areas that they visit, Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris both also strongly emphasised what they described as the restorative function of these trips. For Mas Aris, he said quite directly that their searches for mass graves were really about keeping up peoples’ spirits, so that the survivors and their families do not ‘lose hope’ (putus asa). Their searches were of course about mapping the graves, but they were also about ‘trauma healing’. In our interview, I responded to this by asking Mas Aris if he thought that was something that the local survivors got out of their search. He sat and smoked for a moment then explained that some people were looking for answers, looking for where their loved ones might be buried, while others were just looking for hope. Through his work with Pak Bedjo and the YPKP, he said, he hoped that their mass grave searches helped people



to find hope. I then asked him why he got involved in these searches. Again, he paused then explained that he had to, he had to do something that would be useful, that would help victims. After someone tells their story, he explained, opens up about what happened, this helps other people to tell their story too. Without opening this history up, that space will always be closed. He finished his explanation by stating baldly that the state will never do it, so we have to. I asked him if Pak Bedjo felt the same way: Pak Bedjo is never going to stop, Mas Aris said, he will work until he dies. A week later when I meet with Pak Bedjo, my strongest impression is that Mas Aris is right.

Conclusion: No Place to Remember If memory, particularly social memory, is attached to a place—to sites in their ‘physical’ and ‘non-material’ manifestations (Nora 1989)—then, as Hoelscher and Adlerman explain, these ‘geographies of memory’ need both the material markers and ‘the bodily repetition of performance and cultural display’ in order to survive (2004, p. 350). Without the physical markers, the memorials, the museums, and the rituals and commemorations that accompany them, where is there a place to remember? Or, rather, can social memory live on without place? When considering the politics of social memory in contemporary Indonesia, the New Order’s narrative celebrating the murder and imprisonment of millions remains a powerful instrument of rule, even two decades on from the end of that regime (Trouillot 1995). Though always contested, even during the regime (particularly by its many victims), the cult of anti-communism, and its concurrent justification for military rule, remain strong in Indonesia (Heryanto 2006). If anything, this cult grows stronger as time goes on. While in the immediate post-New Order period, a social space opened for alternate versions of history to be told, as neo-­ fascist and militarist groups have grown more powerful over the last few years, this discourse regains strength (Miller 2018). If we look for the physical markers and the rituals of social memory in Indonesia, they are almost exclusively those created and policed by the military regime. The existing monuments are to the military victors who saved the country from the evil communists who deserved what happened to them. The rituals enact a hegemonic historical narrative that celebrates the military’s heroism. Small stones placed in forest clearings by families of



the dead to mark the mass graves of those murdered seem so insignificant by comparison. Where, then, is there a place to remember the victims of 1965? Are the open fields, riverbanks, and ravines—the photos of which are made as ‘evidence’ of the atrocities which happened in those places—the places where memory of the dead might survive? In their search for, and photographic documentation of, the mass graves of 1965, Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris and their fellow YPKP members are working to create as much of this evidence as they can in the time they have left. But Pak Bedjo and Mas Aris are both old men, and the survivors and witnesses who lead them to these graves are all old too. They do not exhume these graves, and they do not place physical markers in the landscape so that they might be found by others at a later date. What they are creating are Facebook posts with pictures of empty landscapes and old men and women. In a country where there is no place to remember, these photographs of their search for mass graves are what will remain when they are gone. Yet the dead of 1965 will never rest and, through their seething presence amongst the living, they claim a place for remembrance. Communities are made up of the living and the dead, and the bad deaths of those murdered during 1965 mean that they will continue to upset and disturb the living in their midst. Thus, until there is a recovery of the dead of 1965, physically or spiritually, there will be no peace for the living. Acknowledgements  This chapter is part of a larger research project entitled How Does Torture Become Normal? Indonesia’s New Order Regime, 1965–1998, by under the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher award (Project Number DE170100619).

Notes 1. ‘Pak’ is a polite honorific for an adult man in Indonesia, ‘Ibu’ for women. ‘Mas’ is also a respectful term for a man; the use of ‘Pak’ with Pak Bedjo and ‘Mas’ with Mas Aris indicates that Pak Bedjo is the elder. Both men have reviewed this chapter and agreed to have their real names used. Both gave permission for pictures from their Facebook pages to be reproduced, though the exact URLs for these are not given, to protect their privacy. Sadly, Mas Aris passed away in July 2020. 2. In the first few years after 1998, there was a small opening up around 1965 (Stoler 2002, p. 642). This more liberal period of discussion, however, did not last (see, ICTJ & KontraS 2011).



3. Interview with Pak Bedjo, in Indonesian, recorded with permission, Jakarta, 17 April 2018. All quotes are my translations. 4. Field notes from this unrecorded interview with Pak Karto (a pseudonym), Gunung Sewu, October 2005. 5. In some ways, the places of violent death across cultures share some similarities; within this volume, see Rojas-Lizana, Hubbell, and Akagawa. 6. For example, Ibu Titiek (a pseudonym) told me a story years ago about the spirit of a woman murdered at one gravesite. This woman’s spirit stops the engine of motorcycles passing near the gravesite and tells the rider not to disturb the grave. Once she has delivered her message, the motorcycle’s engine will start again. Interview with Ibu Titiek and Ibu Lani (also a pseudonym), together with Yenny Narny, West Sumatra, September 2005. 7. Unrecorded interview with Pak Aris, detailed notes taken with permission, West Java, 14 April 2018. On 3 October 2019, Pak Aris posted the latest infographic on his Facebook page, outlining the locations (by province) of the graves the YPKP had mapped up until that point, a total of 346 mass graves. 8. For example, one grave at Luweng Tikus was exhumed by the Kasut Perdamaian Foundation in 2002, see ‘Foundation Probes Blitar Massacre’ (2002). 9. For a discussion on a remarkable series of workshops undertaken in 2013 and 2014 in the Central Java capital, Semarang, which explored and commemorated sites connected to 1965 in that city, see Eickhoff et al. (2017). 10. In my interview with Pak Bedjo, he mentioned examples of these commemorations run by the YPKP, such as at Pemalang, Central Java, in August 2017, which hundreds of mourners attended. 11. A video of the ceremony in June 2015 can be viewed on YouTube, see Yunantyo (2015). Some gravesites do have small markers laid by local survivor groups, such as in the forest near Brati village in Kayen, Pati, Central Java; a local TV station covered the marker, see Cahaya TV (2016). 12. One example is the documentary created by two such organisations, ELSAM (The Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy) and PAKORBA (Association of Victims of the New Order) about the Bacem bridge outside Solo in Central Java; available on YouTube, see ELSAM and PAKORBA (2014). 13. After reviewing this chapter in August 2018, Pak Bedjo emailed me the list of 122 gravesites which he gave to the Commission in 2016. The list names the locations of the graves, the estimates of how many people are buried at each and, for some, the names of the victims. 14. The Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) has also recently documented a film being made about a mass grave location in Cilacap, Central Java, see AJI (2018).



References AJI (Aliansi Jurnalis Independen) 2018, ‘AJI Purwokerto dokumentasikan kuburan massal korban 65’, AJI Purwokerto, 7 March, Allerton, C 2009, ‘Static crosses and working spirits: Anti-syncretism and agricultural animism in Catholic West Flores’, Anthropological Forum, vol. 19, no. 3, pp. 271–87. Amnesty International 2017, ‘Human rights defenders, 1965 survivors under serious attacks as anti-communism sentiment turned to violence’, Amnesty International, Press release, 18 September, https://www.amnestyindonesia. org/en/human-rights-defenders-1965-sur vivors-serious-attacks-anticommunism-sentiment-turned-violence. Barraud, C & Platenkamp, JDM 1990, ‘Rituals and the comparison of societies’, Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde, vol. 146, pp. 103–23. BBC Indonesia 2016, ‘Satu kuburan massal tragedy 1965 untuk Luhut Pandjaitan’, BBC Indonesia News, 26 April, viewed 20 April 2019, indonesia/majalah/2016/04/160426_trensosial_mass_grave. Bräuchler, B (ed.) 2009, Reconciling Indonesia: Grassroots agency for peace, Routledge, New York. Bubandt, N 2014, ‘When trauma came to Halmahera: Global governance, emotion work, and the reinvention of the spirits of North Maluku’, in Röttger-­ Rössler, B & Stodulka, T (eds.), Feelings at the margins: Violence, stigma and isolation in Indonesia, Campus Verlag, Frankfurt, pp. 81–102. Cahaya TV 2016, Ditemukan lokasi tempat pembantaian PKI, online video, viewed 22 June 2018, Chambert-Loir, H & Reid, A (eds.) 2002, The potent dead: Ancestors, saints and heroes in contemporary Indonesia, Allen & Unwin and University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu. Cribb, R 2001, ‘Genocide in Indonesia, 1965–1966’, Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 219–39. Drakeley, S 2007, ‘Lubang buaya: Myth, misogyny and massacre’, Nebula, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 11–35. Eickhoff, M, Danardono, D, Rahardjo, T & Sidabalok, H 2017, ‘The memory landscapes of “1965” in Semarang’, Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 530–50. Elsam & Pakorba 2014, Jembatan Bacem film documenter tentang perisitiwa 1965, online video, viewed 20 June 2018, watch?v=pRMl5gQkjw4. ‘Foundation probes Blitar massacre’, The Jakarta Post, 15 August 2002, p. 4.



Fox, J 1973, ‘On bad death and the left hand: A study of Rotinese symbolic inversions’, in Needham, R (ed.), Right and left: Essays on dual symbolic classification, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 342–68. Garrard-Burnett, V 2015, ‘Living with ghosts: Death, exhumation, and reburial among the Maya in Guatemala’, Latin American Perspectives, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 180–92. Gilmore, L 2001, The limits of autobiography: Trauma and testimony, Cornell University Press, Ithaca. Gordon, A 2008, Ghostly matters: Haunting and the sociological imagination, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. ——— 2011, ‘Some thoughts on haunting and futurity’, Borderlands, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 1–21. Hertz, R 1960, Death and the right hand, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Heryanto, A 2006, State terrorism and political identity in Indonesia: Fatally belonging, Routledge, London. Hoelscher, S & Alderman, DH 2004, ‘Memory and place: Geographies of a critical relationship’, Social and Cultural Geography, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 347–55. Ida Bagus, M 2012, ‘West Bali: Experiences and legacies of the 1965–66 violence’, in Kammen, D & McGregor, K (eds.), The contours of mass violence in Indonesia, 1965–1968, Singapore University Press, University of Hawai’i Press and KITLV, Singapore, pp. 208–33. International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) & the Commission for Disappeared Persons and Victims of Violence (KontraS) 2011, Derailed: Transitional justice in Indonesia since the fall of Suharto – A joint report by ICTJ and KontraS, ICTJ & KontraS, Jakarta. Laffan, M 2003, Islamic nationhood and colonial Indonesia: The Umma below the winds, RoutledgeCurzon, London and New York. McGregor, K 2009, ‘Confronting the past in contemporary Indonesia: The anti-­ communist killings of 1965–66 and the role of the Nahdlatul Ulama’, Critical Asian Studies, vol. 41, no. 2, pp. 195–224. ——— 2012, ‘Mass graves and memory of the 1965–66 killings’, in Kammen, D & McGregor, K (eds), The contours of mass violence in Indonesia, 1965–1968, Singapore University Press, University of Hawai’i Press and KITLV, Singapore, pp. 234–62. ——— 2017, ‘Exposing impunity: Memory and human rights activism in Indonesia and Argentina’, Journal of Genocide Research, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 551–73. McGregor, M & Purdey, J 2016, ‘Indonesia takes a small but critical step toward reconciliation’, Indonesia at Melbourne, The University of Melbourne, 26 April, viewed 20 April 2019, indonesia-takes-a-small-but-critical-step-toward-reconciliation/.



McGregor, K, Melvin, J & Pohlman, A 2018, ‘New interpretations of the causes, dynamics and legacies of the Indonesian genocide’, in McGregor, K, Melvin, J & Pohlman, A (eds.), The Indonesian genocide of 1965: Causes, dynamics and legacies, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 1–26. Melvin, J 2018, The army and the Indonesian genocide: Mechanics of mass murder, Routledge, New York. Miller, S 2018, ‘Zombie anti-communism? Democratisation and the demons of Suharto-era politics in contemporary Indonesia’, in McGregor, K, Melvin, J & Pohlman, A (eds.), The Indonesian genocide of 1965: Causes, dynamics and legacies, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 287–310. Nora, P 1989, ‘Between memory and history: les lieux de mémoire’, Representations 26, pp. 7–25. Pemberton, J 1994, On the subject of ‘Java’, Cornell University Press, Ithaca. Platenkamp, J 1988, ‘Tobelo: ideas and values of a North Moluccan society’, PhD thesis, University of Leiden, Leiden. Pohlman, Annie 2013a, ‘Documentation: Reports by human rights and victim advocacy organisations in Indonesia: Reconciling the violence of 1965’, Journal of Current Southeast Asian Studies, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 143–65. ——— 2013b, ‘Telling stories about torture in Indonesia: Managing risk in a culture of impunity’, Oral History Forum d’histoire orale, vol. 33, no. 1, pp. 1–17. ——— 2014, ‘Incitement to genocide against a political group: The anti-­ communist killings in Indonesia’, PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1–22. ——— 2015, Women, sexual violence, and the Indonesian killings of 1965–66, Routledge, London. ——— 2016, ‘A year of truth and the possibilities for reconciliation in Indonesia’, Genocide Studies and Prevention, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 60–78. Roosa, J 2016, ‘The state of knowledge about an open secret: Indonesia’s mass disappearances of 1965–66’, Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 75, no. 2, pp. 281–97. Schärer, H 1963, Ngaju religion: The conception of God among a south Borneo people, Nijhoff, The Hague. Schröter, S. 1998. Death rituals of the Ngada in Central Flores, Indonesia. Anthropos 93(4–6), 417–35. Siegel, JT 1983, ‘Images and odours in Javanese practices surrounding death’, Indonesia, vol. 36, pp. 1–14. Southwood, J & Flanagan, P 1983, Indonesia: law, propaganda, and terror, Zed Press, London. Stoler, AL 2002, ‘On the uses and abuses of the past in Indonesia’, Asian Survey, vol. 42, no. 4, pp. 642–50.



Stroud, M 2015, ‘Ripples, echoes, and reverberations: 1965 and now in Indonesia’, PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley. Taussig, M 1999, Defacement: Public secrecy and the labour of the negative, Stanford University Press, Stanford. Trouillot, M-R 1995, Silencing the past: Power and the production of history, Beacon Press, Boston. Wessing, R 2006, ‘A community of spirits: People, ancestors, and nature spirits in Java’, Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 11–111. Wieringa, S 2002, Sexual politics in Indonesia, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. ——— 2019, ‘Mass graves, memorialisation and truth-finding’, in Wieringa, SE, Melvin, J & Pohlman, A (eds.), The International People’s Tribunal for 1965 and the Indonesian genocide, Routledge, New York, pp. 135–56. Wieringa, S, Melvin, J & Pohlman, A (eds.), 2019. The international People’s tribunal for 1965 and the Indonesian genocide. Routledge, New York. Woodward, M 2010, Java, Indonesia and Islam, Springer, Dordrecht. Yunantyo, AS 2015, Peresmian nisan kubural massal ’65 di Dusun Plumbon kota Semarang, online video, viewed 20 June 2018, watch?v=tCe65TLuEgw.


The Visitor’s Gaze in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile Sol Rojas-Lizana

Memory Museums have proliferated in the last twenty years (Lennon and Foley 2000; Milton 2018). Their aim is to create and spread awareness, acknowledgement, and action by emotionally engaging visitors with the past (Arnold-de Simine 2013; Crooke 2019). They also function as agents of social healing (Williams 2017), to promote reflection on human cruelty. Considering the benefits that a deeper understanding of visitor experience may bring to the exhibit’s aims, research on Museum visitor’s experience is still limited (Noy 2008, 2009; Infante Batiste 2015; Gensburger 2017; Rainoldi et al. 2018). In this chapter, I examine the visitor book entries from the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (MMDH, Museum of Memory and Human Rights) in Chile from 2015 to 2016 to study the impact the Museum had on visitors and the connection between the book’s discourse and the aim of the Museum. I begin by contextualising Memory Museums in Latin America, as well as explaining the background of the MMDH.  I then describe the function and purpose of the visitor book, with reference to the research done on these materials. Following a

S. Rojas-Lizana (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




discussion of methodology, the chapter examines the content created by participants in the visitor book’s entries from a discourse analytical perspective. The analysis shows that most visitors engaged positively with the narrative and space of the Museum, since most comments reproduced the speech acts of thanking and congratulating. Reflective comments and emotions emphasised the national importance of having a place of memory for remembering, healing, and learning. The fact that the Museum is not only about atrocities, but includes large sections on resistance and struggle, seems to contribute to this highly positive experience.

Memory Museums in Latin America and Human Rights Museums Memory Museums (MMs) and Memorials in Latin America refer to a period of history marked by the Cold War and consequent interventions by the US in the region that engendered state violence against civilian populations (Andermann 2012). Human rights and the rights of victims are an intrinsic part of these places of memory, in which giving visibility and seeking repair and justice are intimately connected to the discourse of ‘Never Again’ (Lazzara 2011). These museums are, thus, different from those museums in the US, Europe, and other westernised nations, which focus primarily on remembering ‘tragic national histories’ (Milton 2018, p.  134), or war commemorations (which ultimately aim to justify war). Moreover, the wounds that are remembered in most Latin American MMs are still fresh, and victims and perpetrators are ‘walking in our midst’. Another characteristic shared by these MMs in Latin America is their controversial existence. Their perspective has faced opposition from an important (right-wing), sector of the population who do not agree with the memories that are commemorated in these places (Sohnlein 2018). More and more MMs are including the term ‘human rights’ into their titles worldwide (Carter 2013; FIHRM 2018). This frames their objectives: namely, to document the abuse of human rights and educate about human rights issues (Purbrick 2011; Carter 2013), which in turn sets the expectations of their visitors. These museums base their terminology on the United Nations’ ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ of 1948, without tackling the current debate on their validity and universality (de Sousa Santos 2002, 2015; Stern and Straus 2014). In the case of the



Memory Museum in Chile, adopting this ‘cosmopolitan’ view has helped the Museum to protect and justify its existence to the right-wing views that oppose it. Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Chile Forty-seven years have passed since the military coup that drastically changed Chile, and the collective trauma is still raw and unresolved as Chilean society struggles to articulate the experience. Families are divided, there is fear in social relationships, and a tacit consensus of ‘not talking about it’ is still common (Frei 2018; Cárdenas Castro et al. 2019; see also documentaries Special Circumstances 2007; Ulises’ Odyssey 2014). Despite the vast evidence of the massive systematic human rights violations committed during the civic-military regime (1973–1989), confessions and declarations of repentance remain scarce, and there are many people and institutions that deny or justify these violent times (Hite and Collins 2009; Lazzara 2016; Simón Salazar 2017). Representing a difficult past within the context of a society where the elite (and owners of the media) do not acknowledge it is no easy task. Disputed memories emerged, as evidenced by the articulated opposition against the existence of Memorials, and the MMDH was contested even more because it was an official, government-funded initiative (Hite and Collins 2009; Infante Batiste 2015; Opotow 2015). In August 2018, the MMDH experienced renewed criticism from sectors linked to the (right-wing) government; however, the response in defence of the Museum was so massive and immediate that the Minister of Culture had to resign his post (Dorfman 2018; MMDH 2018b, c). Inaugurated in 2010, the MMDH is not a Memorial Museum since its location is not the specific lieu where atrocities were committed (there are over two hundred memorials in Chile, most of them inaugurated this century). Unlike other Human Rights and MMs, the MMDH was sponsored by the state during the first government period (2006–2010) of the socialist Michele Bachelet (MMDH 2018a), who, along with her family, had been a victim of the dictatorship. It was built in response to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of 1991 and 2004, which called for the need to contribute to the reparation process (Rettig Report 1996; Valech Report 2004; MMDH 2018a). The MMDH has three clear goals: first, to collect, preserve, and exhibit historical documentation about the civic-military dictatorship that



confirms the seriousness of its human rights violation; second, to pay homage to the victims of political repression; and third, to cover contemporary human rights issues. As a result, the Museum expects to ‘contribute to making the culture of human rights and democratic values into the ethical fundament shared by all Chilean culture and society’ (MMDH 2018a, para. 1), and to ‘empower our claim of NEVER AGAIN’ (MMDH 2011, p. 12, emphasis in original). For the visitor to have an embodied experience, its interactive architecture, which occupies an entire block in a lower income neighbourhood in Santiago, was designed with the purpose of provoking reflection on individual and collective memory (Estudios America n.d.). Luminosity and transparency were emphasised as a metaphor for not hiding the past, present, and future of the nation (Lazzara 2011). As Carter (2013, p. 325) claims, ‘concepts of reparation and justice are core to the spatial, aesthetic, and programming practices of this museum’. Experiencing the MMDH With some exceptions (e.g. Kelly 2007), most research on the visitor’s experience at museums1 are quantitative and have taken the form of surveys (with a recent addition being eye tracking recording), applied before, during, and after the experience (Purbrick 2011; Gensburger 2017; Rainoldi et al. 2018). This material is important to inform the planning and designing of the exhibits and spaces, but it does not qualitatively explore the visitors’ experiences. There are approximately a dozen publications concerning the MMDH in terms of its exhibits, its creation, and political discourse, but there are very few studies about its visitors. Violi (2014) studied the strategies the Museum used to involve its visitors, while Infante Batiste (2015) examined the interaction between visitors and guides in the construction and performance of memory and history. The MMDH has audience studies publications (e.g. MMDH 2016, 2017, 2018d), which quantitatively characterise the visitors through the information provided by the reception desk, the visitor book, and social media. These audience reports state that in the 2015–2016 period, 315,892 people visited the museum, 30% of which were recurrent visitors (MMDH 2016, 2017). This high number of revisits, which increases each year (MMDH 2018d), suggests that visitors felt the experience was positive and wished to connect more deeply with the material (Opotow 2015). Regarding age range, 53% of the general public attending were young,



varying between 15 and 29 years old. 59% of the visitors were from Chile, but over a hundred other countries were represented, headed by Brazil (23%), the US, Argentina, and Germany. 54% of visitors were female (MMDH 2016, 2017).

Visitor Books in Museums and the Visitor Book at the MMDH The presence of the visitor book (VB) in museums is relevant for several reasons. It provides a space for spontaneous engagement and reflection, as well as for the unburdening of emotions before leaving the place (Noy 2008). This book is a ‘transformative communicative medium [that] facilitates a shift from impressions to expressions’ (Noy 2008, p. 185, emphasis in original). It is placed near the exit, and this strategic location of ‘still in, but about to leave’, appeals to a moment of decision in the visitors without imposing itself (Kavanagh 2000). There are several studies on visitor books in museums, covering museums in countries such as Israel, Greece, Algeria, Japan, Lithuania, and Germany (Stamou and Paraskevolpoulos 2004; Macdonald 2005; Noy 2008, 2009; Chen 2012; Coffee 2013; Isaac and Budryte-Ausiejiene 2015; Alcalde 2017). This investigation is the first qualitative study of the visitor book at the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Chile (see also Rojas-Lizana 2019b). The visitor book at the MMDH is a black book located at the reception area, which is both the entrance and exit of the Museum. It does not follow the traditional organisation of guest books (Noy 2009) that contain columns for name, date, and place of origin before the space dedicated to the comment. In this guest book, visitors are not required to leave any identity marker and the pages are blank, so the person can write (sometimes draw), with total freedom of space. Identity markers can only be deduced from the discourse in the entries. The Audience Reports for 2015 and 2016 (MMDH 2016, 2017), the years I researched, state that the VB registered 1024 comments in 2015 and 762 in 2016. Most of those who stated their nationality were Chilean, followed by Brazilian. The third registered country was the US for 2015 and Argentina for 2016. The MMDH has generously provided me with the transcribed comments for the visitor book for the years 2015 and 2016, in the form of 1786 Excel entries. These entries had columns for date, name, nationality, comments (in the original language: mainly Spanish, followed by



Portuguese, English, Italian, and French), and their classification in the speech acts of gratitude, congratulations, suggestion, and thought/reflection. Every comment in the book was transcribed; some comments were stated as ‘illegible’, but names and any other writing were still included in the transcription (MMDH transcribing personnel, pers. comm., 18 May 2018). I have translated all entries quoted in the analysis into English. This study of language in use adopts an integrationist approach to Discourse Analysis that combines the principles of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) with organisational and analytical tools from Speech Acts theory (Austin 2000) and Cognitive Linguistics (Rojas-Lizana 2019a). My CDA methodological organisation utilises the basic trichotomy structure identified by Wodak (2011) and Reisigl and Wodak (2001) as the following: content and topics, discursive strategies, and linguistic means. Visitors are not passive in their interaction with a museum as they bring their own ‘active meaning-making’ (Macdonald 2005, p.  119). I begin this analysis by examining the diversity of addressers (those writing the entries) and addressees (those to whom the writing is addressed), manifested in the visitor book, given that their backgrounds and ideologies are key to their response to the Museum exhibits. I then analyse the ‘what’ of the visitors’ discourses, centring on the speech act of gratitude and the emotions involved in the visitors’ experiences to explore how the narrative and memory proposed by the Museum affect their entries and which functions and aims are highlighted in their discourses.

The Addresser in the Visitor Book of the MMDH The 2015–2016 VB shows that most entries are personal, but a few entries are made in the name of a family or institution. Many entries are not signed, but some addressers sign with appellatives that highlight (and contextualise) their positioning; that is, they consider it important to state their status, in the context of this Museum, to give sense, and perhaps strength, authority, and validity to their entry. Thus, we find entries signed with ‘daughter of political prisoners’, ‘detained and tortured’ (Sample 4), ‘I, grandson of disappeared people’, ‘your mamá’ (Sample 14, see also Sample 6). Other addressers reveal details that help their identification more indirectly and even leave their contact details. I have identified four general groups within the entries. As a typology, each of these groups highlights specific motivations to visit the MMDH connecting them to



their situated realities: Chilean young people, victim-survivor, Latin American and Spanish foreigners, and foreigners from other countries. Chilean Young People Without Direct Memory of the Period Young people between 15 and 29 years old constitute the most numerous group of visitors. In 2000, the recent Chilean traumatic past started to be addressed in the national curriculum for years six and eleven to understand and explain history and to form conscious citizens (Infante Reyes 2015). Consequently, high school students regularly visit the MMDH with their teachers. This type of addresser sees the Museum as a place of learning and understanding what they consider to be a distant past. They normally manifest feeling moved and grateful for the experience, as well as feeling empathy for the victims. Sample 1 We learnt in depth. We place ourselves in the others’ shoes. The stories reached our hearts. We are grateful that the Museum is cost-free because it contributes to the learning and knowledge about our old Chile. As new generation, we want to end Human Rights’ abuse. We will fight for a better Chile. (June 2015) Sample 2 I leave with a lump in my throat. Not having lived the dictatorship first hand, I was able to understand a bit more the stories of my family who did live and suffer that period. Thank you for the memory. (September 2015)

Although young people did not live through the period, they expressed a strong connection to the events since they were able to ‘place themselves in the other’s shoes’, which typically defines ‘empathy’. The depth of the effect is usually expressed with metaphors that connect emotions with body parts: ‘reached our hearts’, ‘a lump [lit. knot] in my throat’, ‘first hand’ [lit. in my own flesh]. Another common effect in this group, as Sample 1 shows, is to express a commitment to strive for a better society and reflect on themselves as agents of social change. Sample 2 is an example of learned memories through intergenerational transmission, but there are many samples acknowledging complete ignorance about this part of history.



Victim-Survivors The category ‘victim’ contains prototypical and radial elements (Taylor 2002); that is, at the centre of the category are those who are considered more representative than others. Victimhood here has a concentric meaning: starting from those who died, then the tortured, imprisoned, and exiled, their relatives, those who were part of the resistance, and those who endured. Many of the entries specified their position within this categorisation. Depending on their experience, victims attended the Museum to remember/relive their memories and/or to honour and ‘find’ their fallen ones. Survivors volunteer their testimony sometimes, which is also found in Chen (2012), in relation to Hiroshima survivors’ comments. Entries by relatives from younger generations manifest that they were not aware of the full scale of the experience until they visited the MMDH (see Sample 2). Sample 3 … this memorial reopened my wound as I remembered my past and the past of Chile that my parents and sister also endured. I am grateful for the information for the new youth who do not believe much in the past. I hope this is never repeated again. (December 2016) Sample 4 I was here remembering all the difficult and dramatic moments I experienced and was involved in since the day of the fascist coup. I was here with my daughter, wife and granddaughter; I take with me a beautiful memory. Detained and tortured. (June 2015) Sample 5 I am very moved for finally bringing myself to come to the Museum. Memories surface of things that I would not want to have happened. As a girl, I lived the horror committed differently, mainly because my father was detained in the National Stadium and my heart aches when I see the images. Thanks for building a place like this; a country without memory is nothing … I long to know what happened to my father. However, I trust that I won’t die without learning the truth. (September 2015) Sample 6 Really good to have found my great-grandfather. It was a very hard experience. I hope this is useful to everyone to understand this situation. A ­million thanks for finding him, my name is Mariana XX and I am 18 years old. (November 2015)



In these Samples of different types of victims, those who witness the period include the words ‘remember’ (recordar) or ‘remind’ (recordarme), which are emotionally associated with ‘bringing something back to the heart’. Unlike the first group, many of these visitors were reluctant to visit (‘bring myself to come’), saw it as a duty, and experienced mixed feelings (see section ‘Emotions’ below). However, all of them manifest, through the speech act of gratitude and other markers, that the experience was ultimately positive (‘beautiful memory,’ ‘a million thanks’). The exhibits seem to allow them to ‘work’ their pain and heal. Foreigners from Latin America and Spain Forty one percent of visitors in 2015–2016 were foreigners. Visitors from Latin America and Spain tended to empathise deeply and often manifest total understanding because their country went through a similar experience (mostly Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Spain, see also Sample 17 from Iran). They visit to learn, to compare (declaring the MMDH a ‘model/ example’ to follow), and to pay homage to the victims. Those in this group comment more on the architecture, praising the space and the feelings it produces. These types of comments may be related to having had the experience of visiting other places of memory, which has been labelled ‘dark tourism’ (Lennon and Foley 2000; Lill 2017). Sample 7 As a Colombian, today I felt that which so many innocent Chileans lived during 17 years […] I am happy Chile has recovered its collective memory so that this is not repeated. In Colombia, we are in default. (May 2015, Colombia) Sample 8 Chile my dear: Neighbour of our Argentina, who is also impregnated with histories of pain, absence and state terror. Thank you Chile for this Museum of Human Rights […]. (July 2015, Argentina) Sample 9 In memory. All my respect, admiration and prayers to all who died for freedom, equality and justice. (October 2015, Brazil) Sample 10 It has been a striking experience. A visit difficult to endure for the emotions that it provokes. [There is] parallelism with what happened in Spain in



1936. You can have a Museum of Memory; in Spain, 75 years after the events, it is not possible [for there to be] a museum of this kind. (August 2015, Spain)

These visitors often address the Chilean people directly in their entries, manifesting their admiration for rescuing their collective memory. The phrase ‘in memory’, which was used in several entries, establishes a connection to pilgrimage in the reasons to visit the Museum (Lennon and Foley 2000). Most visitors from Brazil and Spain express their wish for a Memory Museum for their own country, as they consider it a healing tool that would contribute to both reconciliation and coming to terms with their ‘hidden’ past. Foreigners from Other Countries The comments by these visitors reveal that they come to learn or because they are just passing through a ‘(dark) touristic attraction’. A few entries manifest astonishment, as they knew little or nothing of this part of Chilean history. The speech acts of congratulating and thanking are common in these entries. Sample 11 Very informative and interesting museum, I feel like I have learn a lot about Chile. (June 2015, England) Sample 12 Muy interesante. It was a very enlightening experience and I really liked the displays. Thanks for the nice experience. (June 2015, US)

Some entries praise the content using mild or neutral words such as ‘nice’ or ‘interesting’, and tend to leave practical comments behind, manifesting no emotional engagement with the exhibit. Visitors from the US tend to acknowledge the responsibility of their government for these historical events (see Sample 19). Interestingly, their gratitude relates to thanking for ‘allowing’ them to learn about Chilean history, as if they were intruding in a private matter. These visitors also thank the MMDH for the contrast of feelings it triggered (see section ‘Emotions’ below). This may be because they expected solely to witness the horror of the period, as is assumed from dark tourism locations (Lill 2017). Instead, they found that the exhibits celebrate the struggle that led to the end of the dictatorship,



hence promoting feelings of hope, pride, and happiness. The discourse of these visitors implied a sense of relief at this inclusion. As Dorfman (2018, para. 7) writes: At every step, the museum emphasises that the sacrifice of the victims was not in vain. Room after room […] they assure us that the rebellion that cost so many lives was part of a great resistance that would finally defeat Pinochet’s dictatorship. This sign that there is hope—that there is meaning behind so much pain and loss—, is something that must be valued, as it is not often achieved.

The Addressee in the Visitor Book The addressee in the VB also shapes the content of the comments. Most entries address the Museum (and its personnel), to congratulate and thank it for the exhibits and for being the keepers of memory. There are entries addressing Chile or the Chilean people (coming from foreigners, see Sample 8), as well as President Bachelet, who is thanked for her key role in creating the MMDH, and ‘compañeros’, calling them to action in search of justice. There are several entries addressing the victims. Consider the following: Sample 13 Always in our memory, our memories and our heart. Honour and glory for you, dear Goyo (Luis Muñoz Rodriguez). The tyrant snatched your life away one day in January 1975 […]. So that Never Again […]. Today, as always, I felt your blessing. (August 2015) Sample 14 My son, my dear, we all remember you, always. You will always be in our memories. With love, your mamá. (November 2015) Sample 15 It is so very moving; it is something indescribable what I feel. There was never justice and there will never be forgiveness. A tight embrace and all my respect for you brothers and sisters, compañeros, who gave your life for n ­ othing, who were murdered [by] cowards and those miserable fucks. (January 2016) Sample 16 Pepe, here I leave the letter you wrote to me over 44 years ago. I see you are in a very beautiful place. May all remember your revolutionary spirit […].



You told me that I was the most beautiful thing you were leaving in Paris. I came for that reason. Neither forgive nor forget. (November 2016)

These addresses give the MMDH a function that connects with its goal of paying homage to the victims; however, this goal is extended to adopting a function usually reserved for cemeteries. That is, offering ‘the possibility of, and a context for, memorializing a particular individual [that is] the identity of the deceased can be enshrined in the site’s internal order’ (Rugg 2000, p. 262). The Museum in this case acts as a place of pilgrimage and healing where people ‘visit’, ‘talk to’, or ‘pay respect’ to the victims, many of whom cannot have a grave because their remains have not been found. In that sense, the visitor is claiming control over the space, as families claim it over graves in a cemetery. All these entries are signed with full names2 (including both surnames in Spanish), which suggest a testimonial character. Entries wrote ‘in memoriam’ (Sample 9), have a similar aim. Likewise, Noy (2008), reports that the visitor book in his study contained entries addressing those who died in the war. The promotion of this function is strengthened by the presence of candles at a space of reflection in front of a wall with the victims’ faces (see Fig. 5.1). This imitates the Latin American tradition of the ‘animita’, which consists of shrines in places of violent death where people attend to remember and ask protection and favours from the victim (Ojeda Ledesma 2011). A similar function is played by people visiting graves in Indonesia (see Pohlman, this volume).

The Entries The visitor book shows us that the MMDH did not only bring new knowledge, but it triggered a series of reflections, speech acts, and emotions that evidence the powerful effect of this place of memory. For reasons of space, I will only centre on the speech act of gratitude, and afterwards examine the emotions evidenced in the entries, as they are strong indicators of the powerful effect the Museum had on the experiencers. Speech Acts: Gratitude In order of frequency, the MMDH triggered the speech acts of thanking, congratulating, wishing, reflecting, suggesting, testifying, promising, and regretting. Many entries contained more than one speech act. Gratitude



Fig. 5.1  Room ‘Absence and Memory’ at the MMDH (Archive MMDH)

was the most common speech act encountered (222 entries explicitly expressing gratitude), which was also the case of Isaac and Budryte-­ Ausiejiene’s (2015), study. This is not surprising as the genre of ‘visitor book’ in the context of MMs and Memorials lends itself to this function. Sample 17 Thank you for creating this powerful space to commemorate this powerful moment of history. My family from Iran gained a lot of emotion upon entering this museum because they went through a revolution under the Islamic republic of Iran […] each death under the hands of Pinochet commemorates the death of my parents’ many friends and siblings. (January 2016, Iran) Sample 18 […] As the daughter of a tortured person at the Air Force Base in Cerro Moreno, it is deeply emotional to go over this Museum. My father passed away in 2005 but, in this way, I feel that I can reconnect with him and his past, which is also my story. Thank you very much! (May 2016)



As shown in Samples 17 and 18, the thanking circumstances vary depending on the story behind the addresser, but the reasons can be summarised in two themes: making the collective memory of the period visible (Samples 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 21), and honouring the victims (Samples 5, 6, 18, 22). Visibility makes the period real to the new generations and brings recognition, validity, help, and hope to people, as the MMDH is as much about atrocities as it is about resistance and struggle. Emotions and Emotional Memory Visits to MMs are known to be emotionally charged, as many of these museums are perceived to aim at producing feelings of empathy and compassion in trying to convey how it feels to have the victims’ experiences (Violi 2014). Given that emotions are short-lived responses (Nawijn and Fricke 2015), the VB is an excellent method of capturing the emotions triggered while the experience is still ‘fresh’. The expression of emotions dominated the discourse of the VB. Many of them were very intense, paralleling other studies on visitors’ experiences in traumatic sites (Chen 2012; Nawijn and Fricke 2015; Isaac and Budryte-Ausiejiene 2015). Interestingly, emotions such as hatred and despair were rare in the comments (but see Sample 15). This is relevant because common arguments against historical memory are that remembering would promote hatred and division, and two of the comments made by people who hold a ‘memory of salvation’, argued that the Museum’s existence and exhibit incite those feelings. Memories as salvation remember the dictatorship as saving the country from chaos, and the human rights violations as necessary in a ‘state of exception’ to bring the country back to order (Stern 2010). This type of memory contests the MMDH’s, which is a ‘memory as rupture’ (Stern 2010; Infante Batiste 2015). Table 5.1 shows some of the lexical items and metaphors used to describe emotions, grouped in three clusters: The Museum triggered positive and negative emotions and memories, which resulted in a positive outcome. The most frequent describer in the cluster Discomfort was ‘pain’, referring both to the pain of the victims and the pain of the addresser as they experienced the Museum. ‘Shame’ and ‘guilt’ referred only to addressers and were rare, only present in five of the nearly two thousand entries. The cluster Admiration and delight referred to the experience in relation to the exhibits and to the place itself. Visitors expressed admiration (foreigners), and pride (nationals), for the people’s struggle and bravery, and for the Chilean people’s capacity to overcome.



Table 5.1  Clusters of emotions as expressed in the visitor book of the MMDH (2015–2016) Discomfort

Admiration and delight

Conflicted feelings

Pain, sadness, shocking, striking, fear, tears, repudiation, helplessness, hopelessness, shame, guilt, bad, atrocious, disturbing, sorrow, terrible, horror, terror, haunting, shivering, difficult, dramatic, anguish, open wound, brutal, so much, too much, tears of outrage, lump in the throat, soul breaking, touches every part of the body and soul, dark, overwhelmed, ugly, stormy, sinister, bitter, hell, terrified, evil, lies, injustice, insult, penetrating, horrifying, breathless, treason

Gratitude, respect, pride, appreciation, congratulation, inspiring, pleasing, hope, good, exciting, amazing, impressive, encouraging, wonderful, beautiful, delight, wonder, intense, moving, open the mind, touched my heart, fraternal embrace, marvellous, extraordinary, jealousy, unforgettable, essential, super, strength, faith, love, instructive, revitalising, rewarding, courage, fascinating, enjoyed, admiration, powerful, integrity, happiness, light, balm, necessary Referring to the place: pretty, special, fantastic, wonderful, beautiful, stunning, belissimo. spectacular, lovely, marvellous, good, incredible, super, pleasant, gorgeous, monumental, interactive, artistic

Indescribable, sad, haunting but inspiring; with a tight heart but happy; terrifying but exhilarating at the same time; shocking but inspiring at the same time; grey but hopeful; painful but hopeful; deeply saddened but at the same time grateful; sad history but it offers a light of hope; terribly marvellous place; beautiful although very hard; marvellous and sad at the same time; beautiful and heart-rending; Although the pain is still alive and my feelings trample on each other … thank you for making us remember. Very sobering and sad, but I’m glad I visited

Most frequent are highlighted



The word ‘necessary’ (experience) was repeated many times, written in the context of an adversative, as in ‘painful but necessary’. Although many entries included negative and positive feelings within the comment itself, the cluster ‘Conflicted feelings’ is separated from the others to mark that addressers were aware that these feelings were competing. This is expressed in discourse by the expression ‘at the same time’ or ‘conflicted feelings’ and placing negative and positive lexical items close together. In most cases, the positive followed the negative feeling, which, cognitively, marks a recovery as a metaphor for time; that is, the negative feelings came first and the positive after (Allot 2013). Sadness and hope were the most common. Another discourse marker that showed a positive outcome was expressing gratitude after or before expressing mixed feelings. Sample 19 Fantastic museum! Sad, haunting, but also inspiring that in the end the people triumphed. I am only sorry for the role my country played in the cause. Gracias por la lucha continuar. (June 2015, US) Sample 20 I don’t like that this Museum exists, I don’t like having this information before my eyes. I don’t like having to be moved to tears every time I come. I don’t like to recognise myself before this brutal memorised history. But please, don’t ever cease to exist and to show us what we were […]. (September 2015)

Words reinforcing a sense of duty in the visitor are common in the entries. The sense of moral duty and the need to have this painful reminder are considered necessary to progress as a nation and to pay tribute. Body metaphors referring to these emotions were abundant in an effort to convey emotional intensity and connect with feelings of empathy and solidarity. Transformation and Catharsis In some cases, these extreme feelings seem to produce a transformation in people who did not have a direct memory of the time, and even a sense of catharsis (intense emotional release), in visitors who had experienced the period.



Sample 21 You leave this place a different person, you are not the same any more. When you have remember with such clarity the wound of Chile that we must never forget, because if so we run the risk to repeat again this bitter history […]. Each child must know the history of its country; it is a national duty. Beautiful and heart-rending. Thank you. (February 2016) Sample 22 I finally dared to come. I was very scared of not being able to contain the tears and the pain of seeing the history of my country exposed, which is the story of myself, my parents, and of all. However, I could do it, and I feel happy. Thank you for the work you do. (March 2016) Sample 23 Very moving. Those of us who lived this period but did not ‘get involved’ feel that we ‘failed’ all those who suffered and disappeared. I ask God this does not happen again. ‘Forgive me’ (‘Perdón’). (July 2016, emphasis in original)

The transformation is expressed in the metaphor of the Museum as a container (Sample 21) that transforms people into something better through the act of remembering and learning, not forgetting. Sample 22 (and Sample 5) is an example of catharsis marked by reluctance, fear, and release expressed in ‘I feel happy’ and the speech act of gratitude. I consider Sample 23 a cathartic act because publicly asking for forgiveness involves deep tension and release. This person probably felt much better about themselves after writing this confession. Notice the ambiguity of the speech act: this person may be asking for forgiveness from the victims, alive or dead, or from the whole country.

Conclusion: Beyond Memory and Place Visitor books in the context of Memory Museums are evidence of the impact that the experience triggers in the audience, as well as indicating whether the museum’s aims are achieved. This analysis shows that, at a personal level, the experience triggered several speech acts, headed by ‘gratitude’, and emotions that depended on the type of visitor performing them. That is, Chileans, foreigners, witnesses, direct or indirect victims all engaged in different emotional dispositions (Maturana and Dávila 2015), with their Museum experience. However, the entries show a common thread that the MMDH had a constructive effect on these visitors, since



even when declaring conflicting feelings, comments would end with a positive reflection that revealed a sense of hope, commitment, healing, and coming to terms. Furthermore, declarations of hatred and despair were scarce. It seems that, among other reasons, this success points at the fact that the museum exhibits are not only about the atrocities but about the resistance, solidarity, and the struggle that led the people to overthrow the dictatorship. At the level of general reflection, visitors valued this place of memory for being a testimony and proof of a historical past that was (and still is) constructed as non-existent. Many foreigners’ comments declared the MMDH a ‘model’ against impunity that should be followed by other countries. Comments stressed that acknowledging history and the suffering of direct and indirect victims was essential to avoid the repetition of human rights violations. The MMDH is therefore understood in the context of civic engagement and a commitment to the Never Again stance (Rojas-­Lizana 2019b). The discourse of the MMDH has been criticised in academic literature and conservative media for its omissions. These include contextualisation,3 the US government’s involvement in the coup and repression, not naming perpetrators, not criticising the slow pace of legal justice, treating political opponents exclusively as victims, and presenting a conciliatory account (Lazzara 2011; Andermann 2012; Frei 2018; Violi 2018). In its controversial creation, the MMDH also had disagreements with NGOs and the AFDD (Group of Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared); however, this was scarcely reflected in the comments. It seems that, at least in the VB, whatever was missing or omitted was overshadowed by the way the MMDH gives visibility to a moment in history in which human rights were systematically violated. There are two facts that could be regarded as limitations in this study. First, the corpus offered irregular background information. Second, there were very few negative comments (although there were many respectful suggestions). There were nine comments of dissent, refusal to engage with the exhibits, or challenging the proposed narrative. This is unusual in comparison with other visitor studies (Chen 2012; Coffee 2013), which found dissent, especially in state-sponsored museums (of which the MMDH is one). The absence of negative comments is not necessarily because the Museum is ‘preaching to the converted’. Infante Batiste’s work on the MMDH (2015) found that visitors who challenge the Museum narrative and the type of memory it promotes were common,



which was corroborated by the MMDH personnel in personal communication.4 These visitors engage in articulated discussions with other visitors and guides, but it seems that they chose not to express their disagreement in the visitor book. The discourse found in the visitor book 2015–2016 addressed the first two objectives of the MMDH.5 The first objective, to archive and document the violation of human rights during the civic-military dictatorship, was tackled in the many comments that thanked and congratulated the Museum for existing as a place where historical records are kept and displayed. The MMDH’s building is presented in a way that promotes research, as it intersperses investigation material throughout its exhibits. Its archival status is also in display, as it dedicates two floors to library/ centres of visual and written archival material opened to the public. The attainment of the second goal of extending respect and dignity to the victims was manifested in the great number of comments that used the book to reflect, pay homage, solidarise, empathise, and address the victims. This was especially powerful in the case of the disappeared. Survivors and other victims also used the space to face their own traumatic memories, as many entries offered testimonio (Beverley 2004), or evidenced cathartic discourse. The question of how the MMDH contributes to reconciliation can also be addressed with regard to this corpus. Reconciliation is a process, and as such must pass through several steps, the first being to acknowledge this memory of rupture. Many of the entries recognise this as key to healing their trauma and to building a better nation. The Museum’s audience reports stated that not only does the number of visitors increase every year, but that the number of recurrent visitors increases also; of these, 30% visited a second, third or fourth time in the period studied (MMDH 2016, 2017, 2018d). Although the Museum organises events that would attract repeat visitors, this high number of revisits does point to a successful place of memory in which visitors go to reflect and to connect with the material in a deeper form, as stated in several of the corpus’ entries (see, for example, Sample 20). The analysis of the visitor book has evidenced that the cultural public institution of a Memory Museum plays an important role in the construction of collective memory and contributes to individual and collective healing, and the national reconciliation processes. Dedication  I dedicate this work to David Dungay and Muhammad al-­ Durrah, always in my obstinate memory.



Acknowledgements  My sincere gratitude to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos and its personnel: Jo Siemon, Head of Education and Outreach, manager of oral archives Walter Roblero, Beatriz Águila, and María Luisa Ortiz, Head of Collections and Research. Thank you to my colleagues of the SLC Memory and Trauma Research Group.

Notes 1. For an overview of the literature on museum visitor studies, see Hooper-­ Greenhill (2006). 2. As in Sample 6, identifiers are not included out of respect for the writers. 3. Victims and human rights professionals were against this contextualisation, arguing that no context justifies the violation of human rights, and that the museum’s function is to show what happened with irrefutable evidence, to promote the social commitment that these violations are not repeated, under any circumstance (see Javiera Parada’s letter (27/06/2012) and Enrique Palet’s letter (25/06/2012) to the newspaper El Mercurio). 4. Personnel from Audience Studies at the MMDH confirmed the identification of a number of visitors who have a memory as salvation and therefore criticise the museum’s perspective. (Beatriz Águila, Pers. comm. 19 May 2018). 5. Exhibits on contemporary issues on human rights have their own visitor book placed outside the exhibiting room. However, a number of comments reflected on the fragility of human rights and the importance of raising awareness on young people on social issues, especially in connection with the indigenous Mapuche people.

References Alcalde, G 2017, ‘A museum in a refugee camp. The National Museum of the Saharawi People in Algeria, its use and function’, Curator: The Museum Journal, vol. 60, no. 2, pp. 191–203. Allot, N 2013, ‘Relevance theory’, in Capone, A, Lo Piparo, F & Carapezza, M (eds.), Perspectives on linguistic pragmatics, Springer, Cham, pp. 57–98. Andermann, J 2012, ‘Showcasing dictatorship memory and the museum in Argentina and Chile’, Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 69–93. Arnold-de Simine, S 2013, Mediating memory in the museum: trauma, empathy, nostalgia, Palgrave Macmillan, Hampshire. Austin, JL 2000, How to do things with words, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.



Beverley, J 2004, Testimonio: on the politics of truth, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Cárdenas Castro, M, Arnoso Martínez, M & Faúndez Abarca, X 2019, ‘Deliberate rumination and positive reappraisal as serial mediators between life impact and posttraumatic growth in victims of state terrorism in Chile (1973–1990)’, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 545–561. Carter, J 2013, ‘Human rights museums and pedagogies of practice: the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos’, Museum Management and Curatorship, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 324–341. Chen, CL 2012, ‘Representing and interpreting traumatic history: a study of visitor comment books at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum’, Museum Management and Curatorship, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 375–392. Coffee, K 2013, ‘Visitor comments as dialogue’, Curator: The Museum Journal, vol. 56, no. 2, pp. 163–167. Crooke, E 2019, ‘Memory politics and material culture: Display in the memorial museum’, Memory Studies, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 617–629. Dorfman, A 2018, ‘Chile: now more than ever’, The New York Review of Books, vol. 65, no. 13, viewed 30 August 2018, . Estudios America, Architecture Firm, Sao Paulo, Brasil n.d. Museum of Memory and Human Rights, viewed 10 January 2018, . FIHRM 2018, Federation of International Human Rights Museums, website, viewed 7 September 2018, . Frei, R 2018, ‘“In my home nobody spoke about religion, politics or football”: Communicative silences among generations in Argentina and Chile’, Memory Studies, pp. 1–16. Gensburger, S 2017, ‘Visiting history, witnessing memory: A study of a Holocaust exhibition in Paris in 2012’, Memory Studies, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 630–645. Hite, K & Collins, C 2009, ‘Memorial fragments, monumental silences and reawakenings in 21st-century Chile’, Millennium: Journal of International Studies, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 379–400. Hooper-Greenhill, E 2006, ‘Studying visitors’, in Macdonald, S. (ed.), A companion to museum studies, Blackwell Pub, Malden, pp. 362–376. Infante Batiste, V 2015, Memory performances at a memorial heritage site: The case of the guided tours at the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Chile, MA in Cultural Heritage Studies, University College London. Infante Reyes, S 2015, Del discurso al aula: recontextualización de textos escolares en materia de dictadura militar y derechos humanos para sexto año básico en



Chile. Honours, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos. Isaac, RK & Budryte-Ausiejiene, L 2015, ‘Interpreting the emotions of visitors: A study of visitor comment books at the Grūtas Park Museum, Lithuania’, Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, vol. 15, no. 4, pp. 400–424. Kavanagh, G 2000, Dream spaces: Memory and the museum, Leicester University Press, London. Kelly, L 2007, ‘Visitors and learning: adult museum visitors’ learning identities’, in Hnell, SJ, Macleod, S & Watson, S (eds.), Museum revolutions: How museums change and are changed, Routledge, London, pp. 276–290. Lazzara, MJ 2011, ‘Dos propuestas de conmemoración pública: Londres 38 y el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Santiago de Chile)’, A Contra corriente, vol. 8, pp. 55–90. Lazzara, MJ 2016, ‘Writing complicity: the ideological adventures of Mariana Callejas’, Radical History Review, vol. 124, pp. 141–152. Lennon, J & Foley, M 2000, Dark tourism, Continuum, London. Lill, E 2017, The influence of tourist performances at dark tourism sites. The selfie-­ phenomenon at Holocaust Memorials, GRIN, New York. Macdonald, S 2005, ‘Accessing audiences: Visiting visitor books’, Museum and Society, vol. 3, no. 3, pp. 119–136. Maturana, H & Dávila, X 2015, El árbol del vivir, escuelamatríztica, MVP editores, Santiago. Milton, CE 2018, Conflicted memory: Military cultural interventions and the human rights era in Peru, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. MMDH 2011, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Ograma, Santiago. MMDH 2016, Estudio de audiencias 2015, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago. MMDH 2017, Estudio de audiencias 2016, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago. MMDH 2018a, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos website, tab: ‘Sobre el museo’, viewed 12 May 2018, . MMDH 2018b, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos Facebook page, viewed 13 August 2018, . MMDH 2018c, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos website, viewed 18 August 2018, . MMDH 2018d, Estudio de audiencias 2017, Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, Santiago. Nawijn, J & Fricke, MC 2015, ‘Visitor emotions and behavioral intentions: the case of Concentration Camp Memorial Neuengamme’, International Journal of Tourism Research, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 221–228.



Noy, C 2008, ‘Mediation materialized: The semiotics of a visitor book at an Israeli commemoration site’, Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol. 25, no. 2, pp. 175–195. Noy, C 2009, ‘‘I was here!’: Addressivity structures and inscribing practices as indexical resources’, Discourse Studies, vol. 11, no. 4, pp. 421–440. Ojeda Ledesma, L 2011, ‘Hologramas de la muerte imprevista: pregnancia urbana de las animitas en Chile’, Geograficando: Revista de Estudios Geográficos, vol. 7, no. 7, pp. 1–20. Opotow, S 2015, ‘Historicizing injustice: The Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile’, Journal of Social Issues, vol. 71, no. 2, pp. 229–243. Purbrick, L 2011, ‘Museums and the embodiment of human rights’, Museum and Society, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 166–189. Rainoldi, M, Neuhofer, B & Jooss, M 2018, ‘Mobile eyetracking of museum learning experiences’, in Stangl, B & Pesonen, J (eds.), Information and Communication Technologies in Tourism 2018, Springer, Cham, pp. 473–485. Reisigl, M & Wodak, R 2001, Discourse and discrimination: Rhetorics or racism and antisemitism, Routledge, London. Rettig Report 1996, Informe de la Corporación Nacional de Reparación y Reconciliación 2(3), viewed 22 April 2018, . Rojas-Lizana, S 2019a, The discourse of perceived discrimination: Perspectives from contemporary Australian society, Routledge, New York. Rojas-Lizana, S 2019b, ‘Citizen voices in the visitor book of the Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Chile’, in Fernández, A.M (ed.), Ottawa Hispanic Studies, 28: An Open Dialogue on Democracy and Citizen Empowerment in the Latin-American Context: Our Voices, Lugar Común, pp. 17–40. Rugg, J 2000, ‘Defining the place of burial: What makes a cemetery a cemetery?’, Mortality, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 259–275. Stern, S 2010, Reckoning with Pinochet: The memory question in democratic Chile, 1989–2006, Duke University Press, Durham. Simón Salazar, HL 2017, Television, democracy, and the mediatization of Chilean politics, Lexington Books, Lanham. Sohnlein, MA 2018, ‘Mending societal rifts: Argentine museums, spaces of memory and exhibiting difficult histories’, Master of Arts in Museum Studies, San Francisco State University. de Sousa Santos, B 2002, ‘Toward a multicultural conception of human rights’, in Hernández-Truyol, B (ed.), Moral imperialism. A critical anthology, New York University Press, New York, pp. 39–60. de Sousa Santos, B 2015, If god were a human rights activist, Stanford University Press, Palo Alto. Special Circumstances, 2007, Documentary directed by Teleki, M, USA.



Stamou, AG & Paraskevolpoulos, S 2004, ‘Images of nature by tourism and environmentalist discourses in visitors books: A critical discourse analysis of ecotourism’, Discourse & Society, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 105–129. Stern, SJ, Straus, S 2014, The human rights paradox: Universality and its discontents, University of Wisconsin Press, Madison. Taylor, JR 2002, Cognitive grammar, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Ulises’ Odyssey, 2014. Documentary directed by Manríquez, L & Picker, M USA, Chile, Switzerland. Valech Report 2004, Informe de la Comisión Nacional sobre Prisión Política y Tortura, viewed 22 April 2018, . Violi, P 2014, ‘Spectacularising trauma. The experientialist visitor or memory museums’, VS, vol. 119, pp. 51–70. Violi, P 2018, ‘State agency and the definition of historical events: the case of the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos in Santiago, Chile’, in Bevernage, B & Wouters, N (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of State-Sponsored History After 1945, Palgrave Macmillan, London, pp. 415–430. Williams, P 2017, ‘The personalization of loss in memorial museums’, in Hamilton, P & Gardner, JB (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Public History, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 1–21. Wodak, R 2011, ‘Complex texts: Analysing, understanding, explaining and interpreting meanings’, Discourse Studies, vol. 13, no. 5, pp. 623–633.


Sites of Trauma


Remembering World War I in Australia: Hyde Park as Site of Memory Nina Parish and Chiara O’Reilly

In 2018, as recorded on a plaque at the entrance, a grandson of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Harry, opened the revamped Anzac War Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park, echoing the original opening in 1934 by the Duke of Gloucester. Why was it seen as relevant that a member of the British royal family should make this gesture as part of World War I centenary commemorations? What does this moment of memory and diplomacy politics tell us about Australia today? As a nation-founding myth, great importance and political capital have been given in Australia to events during World War I such as the Gallipoli Campaign and this significance has been in turn maintained and reflected in the funding attributed to centenary commemorations by the Australian government. In this chapter, we study and compare a number of the memory modes and messages present at

N. Parish (*) University of Stirling, Stirling, UK e-mail: [email protected] C. O’Reilly University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




federal, state, and local levels to understand how traumatic memories of World War I are articulated in contemporary Australian society and what they contribute to discussions around Australian identity today. The focus of our chapter will be the commemoration of World War I as exemplified by Hyde Park in Sydney, and the different memory messages presented in this site, for example, the Anzac War Memorial and Tony Albert’s monument Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall. Drawing on theories about different memory modes developed and tested by the European Union funded research project, Unsettling Remembering and Social Cohesion in Transnational Europe (UNREST), we contend that the more settled World War I memory narratives, if articulated in an agonistic fashion, could have the potential for opening up debate around the difficult and traumatic histories that have taken place on Australian soil.

The Politics of Commemoration in Australia As Marilyn Lake and others have long pointed out, in Australia, the Anzac commemorations are a politically driven ‘authorised’ tradition (Lake 2006; Lake and Reynolds 2010; Beaumont 2013; Clark 2017). This authorised tradition is borne out by the significant investment made by the Australian government in World War I centenary commemorations (Daley 2018; Harris and Commonwealth of Australia n.d.), with journalists suggesting that Australia spent more than any other participant in the war (McPhedran 2015). These funds have been dispersed by federal and state governments, ranging from high-profile funds released to national cultural institutions to support for small-scale community projects. Over the four years of centenary commemorations, the Anzac Centenary Public Fund supported ‘77 arts and cultural projects’ (Australian Government 2018, p. 11) to honour local and national memories of World War I. Small projects were also funded in each federal electorate to support community projects, such as the restoration of local honour rolls, war memorials, and other events or activities by local community groups (Australian Government n.d.). The handcrafted poppy project (Berry n.d.) is one local initiative that captured imaginations and even took on national and global significance. At the other end of the scale, the federal government constructed a dedicated extraterritorial museum in France, which opened in April 2018: the Sir John Monash Centre at the Australian War Memorial (Villers-Bretonneux). All these initiatives were marked by a solemn sense of celebrating a continued history of remembering the dead and an



ongoing celebration of the Anzac spirit, which continue to be politically authorised as a core part of modern Australian identity. An important question for remembering World War I in Australia is how best to commemorate events that happened in distant places. The trauma inflicted on civilian lives by mass loss—Inglis and Brazier suggest one in two Australian families were affected (1998, p.  93)—in battles fought to support the British forces on the other side of the world was made worse by the impossibility of traditional grieving rituals as many bodies were lost on the battlefields and the dead were not repatriated during the war. The Australian landscape is dotted with memorials—New South Wales has more than 2000 (NSW Government Office for Veterans Affairs n.d.)—while some list battle sites, most list the names of those who fought or died. These local monuments are significant official sites of memory that position traumatic loss in communities and ‘stand in for the absence of bodies after World War One, a war fought elsewhere, out of sight of most who would do the mourning for loved ones whose remains lay in battlefields or foreign graves’ (Ashton and Hamilton 2008, p. 2). The physical sites of the battles, the distant soils where Australian soldiers fought and are buried, have similarly become places of pilgrimage, a journey to places such as Villers-Bretonneux which has in recent years become a quasi-rite of passage for young Australians (Scates 2002, 2007; McKenna and Ward 2007). Scates, in response to the work of McKenna and Ward (2007), on this dark tourism, wrote of the profound challenge that it represents for historians: ‘How do historians, well aware of the waste, immorality, and the futility of the Great War, respond to what McKenna and Ward have called the “sanctification” of its memory?’(Scates 2007, p. 313). In addition to its political elevation and instrumentalisation, Lake (2006) discusses the military influence on commemorations of World War I, suggesting the damaging effect that this can have on the work of historians: Historians have now enrolled in the pilgrimages as guides and interpreters and joined the publishing bonanza that is war commemoration. For the time being at least, it would seem that history—as critical practice—has been disarmed. (p. 57)

These challenges are central to understanding how World War I commemoration is articulated and experienced in Australia, be it in the ‘authentic’ battlefield experience or memorials constructed on the other



side of the world by grieving communities, alongside the political and military significance. The range of World War I commemorations in Australia, from the officially sanctioned to more grassroots efforts, is striking. The listing of names, as part of the remembering of people lost, and the traumatic absence of physical sites locally linked to the loss, continues to resonate and demonstrates the important continuation of memory work as an activity with local meaning and significance. However, although there is no doubt that the sacrifices of those who served, were injured, and/or died in World War I and other conflicts should be commemorated, the homogeneity of those being commemorated is to be noted. What about the names which did not make it on to the honour boards? What about the memories of those who chose not to volunteer to fight in World War I, of those who voted against conscription in referenda in 1916 and 1917, of those who returned to Australia transformed both physically and mentally, traumatised by what they had experienced? It seems that different perspectives that may trouble and disrupt official accounts are hidden from sight in many of these narratives, and examples are rare. As McKenna writes, ‘Like all national myths, the myth of the Anzac simplifies the past. We see the Anzacs as we need to see them: an army of innocent, brave, young men who were willing to sacrifice their lives so that we might “live in freedom”’ (2010, p.  111). Using the memory modes explored on the UNREST project, we argue that unsettling the Anzac myth by introducing radical multiperspectivity and deep contextual knowledge will help to engage with memories of World War I in a productive way for contemporary Australian society.

Agonistic Memory Drawing on the three ethico-political modes of remembering discussed by Cento Bull and Hansen (2016), many of these official and local accounts of World War I in Australia share characteristics of the antagonistic and cosmopolitan memory modes. Antagonistic memory posits conflict as a moral struggle without nuance or ‘grey zones’ between good and evil, between them and us, between heroes and villains, conceiving the ‘other’ as an enemy to be destroyed. It does not consider the suffering of victims or perpetrators; rather it vilifies deserters and insubordinates and glorifies human sacrifice in the pursuit of patriotism. In many ways, this memory mode resonates with the ‘Australian cult of the Anzac’ (Lake 2006), and



what the honour roll and poppy projects stand for: a celebration of the Australian heroes who gave their lives for their country. But if we look a little closer, particularly in the work of local community-based projects, a focus on individual experience reveals suffering and recognition of the meaninglessness of war. The efforts made by local history groups (for example in Ashfield, a suburb of Sydney) (O’Connell 2019), to trace the names of former students who fought in World War I recorded on school honour boards and to find out more about these individual stories, map the past loss onto present-day experiences. Schoolchildren can relate to and empathise with these young men and their suffering as their names are called out next to theirs or because they lived on the same street as them, thereby bringing these stories closer to home. This underscores the relevance of the work done to remember and record local loss and engages in what could be described as cosmopolitan memory practices. This memory mode highlights the futility of war to ensure we learn from traumatic events in the past so they will never happen again. However, Cento Bull and Hansen argue that cosmopolitan memory and its message of never again is no longer enough in a political context where extremism is drawing on antagonism to fuel its cause. They put forward the concept of agonistic memory, drawing on Chantal Mouffe’s writings on agonism (2000, 2005), as an alternative memory mode able to redress the balance. Agonistic memory relies on radical multiperspectivity to deconstruct the hegemonic memory regime and to (re)construct alternative democratic imaginings, including  subaltern narratives; it seeks to give voice to victims but also to perpetrators, bystanders, and traitors: [T]hey [victims] can also be remembered as subjects with a collective, as well as an individual, political voice and agency. Indeed, it is often this political agency as well as the historical context and power struggles that turned many into victims and many others into perpetrators, bystanders, spies or indeed ambivalent figures. If we are to avoid the risk that the demythologizing of those who used to be heroes turns into their demonization, leaving open the possibility that they are re-appropriated as heroes by antagonistic and anti-democratic political movements, we need to promote a kind of collective memory that re-instates the social and political agency of those who became victims, on one hand, and re-humanizes the heroes-now-turned-­ perpetrators, on the other. (Cento Bull and Hansen 2016, pp. 394–95)



Agonistic memory provides context for conflicts to develop a deeper knowledge and understanding of what social and political conditions led to violent conflict and mass perpetration. Furthermore, it endeavours to go against hegemonic interpretations of the past and the present, and in so doing to re–politicise relationships to the past. As demonstrated and as would be expected, there is evidence of the antagonistic and cosmopolitan memory modes in Australia’s engagement with commemorations of World War I.  What then of agonistic memory practices? Let us turn to Hyde Park, the site of a number of different memorials and monuments, to explore these ideas further.

Hyde Park as Site of Memory: Commemoration, Leisure, and Protest Hyde Park is a green space in Sydney, on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation. This landscape includes key monuments dedicated to the commemoration of World War I: the Emden Gun (1917), the Archibald Memorial Fountain (1932), the Anzac War Memorial (1934; renovated and reopened in 2018), and Tony Albert’s war memorial Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall (2015), as well as lesser-known monuments like the Oddfellows Memorial (1921), making it the most important space in New South Wales (NSW) for World War I commemoration. This importance is clear from the pivotal role the Anzac War Memorial plays in commemorative rituals such as the annual Anzac Day service on 25 April and the November Remembrance Day service. Yet the park is more complex, as the oldest park in Australia (Clouston Associates 2006, p. 1), it is also a treasured green space in the heart of an urban environment. How then do these different monuments function in Hyde Park? Which memory modes are at play here? (Fig. 6.1). In an article about Hyde Park, the Botanic Gardens and the Domain in nineteenth-century Sydney, Hoskins compares parks to museums, discussing their role in civic and behavioural education (Bennett 1995): Parks were not only healthful resorts, they contributed to the ‘moral enlightenment’ of the population. Like museums and expositions, which indeed they often accommodated, parks were public spaces that operated as ‘exhibitionary complexes’ communicating social codes and gaining popular acquiescence to those codes. Self-regulation and surveillance was an important part of this process. The regulations passed down for the Botanic



Fig. 6.1  View looking over Hyde Park North, 1937, City of Sydney Archives: A-00006639 Gardens, the Domain and the Centennial Park by 1889 included the specific request that visitors ‘bring under the notice of the director any breach of the same coming under their observation’. (2003, p. 11)

Parks were and still are places where people can watch others to regulate their behaviour as citizens. The City of Sydney Council manages Hyde Park and attempts to balance its diverse use and long history as a site of political significance and symbolism (Clouston Associates 2006, p. 1). As an open environment, Hyde Park serves as a site for recreation, festivals, and commemoration but also for public protest with many demonstrations occupying the park. These functions are central to interpreting the park in terms of Pierre Nora’s arguments for lieux de mémoire; as sites where ‘memory crystallizes and secretes itself’ (1989, p. 7). Here, these memories and traces of history coalesce in the network of historical monuments but also play out across the physical landscape of the park, especially its position amongst the built environment and its diverse public usage, all of which establish this memoryscape as one of Sydney’s most significant sites of memory. We situate our own examination of Hyde Park in the postcolonialisation of sites of memory initiated by Etienne Achille, Charles Forsdick, and Lydia Moudileno: […] involving recognition of the colonial dimensions—latent or more overt—evident in such locations and phenomena, but also applying a critical lens that acknowledges the continued practices of stage-management and control associated with their inclusion in official narratives and memory practices. (2020, p. 12)



The highly structured internal layout of Hyde Park, designed by landscape architect Norman Weekes, was described as an example of the ongoing tension between the formal and informal traditions of landscape architecture: Once the venue of keen sporting rivalries, Hyde Park is now the vortex of more subtle, if no less heated strife. On its greens-ward rages, to use architectural parlance, the battle of the styles, formalism, and informalism. (Brown 1934, p. 44)

This description stresses the colonial use of the area for sport but omits a longer history of Indigenous occupation. Weekes, however, did incorporate Aboriginal place names into his design: Boongala and Gwandalan, and prior to the Archibald Memorial Fountain, the meeting point of the avenues was called ‘Birubi Circle’. Tellingly, particularly in relation to the surrounding streets and area, these names were not used. The geographical location of Hyde Park and the names of the roads that surround and go through it add further layers to the colonial power narrative developed by this site of memory. Many of these streets are named after royalty (Prince Alfred Road) or prominent and controversial historical figures (Macquarie Street), and thus the streets themselves map white settlement and control. Along these streets are markers of European settlement, education, and culture. College Street includes the elite private boy’s school Sydney Grammar (1832), and the Australian Museum (1827), which is opposite the Catholic Cathedral St Mary’s (1821). Macquarie Street is the embodiment of white colonial history, featuring closest to the park St James Anglican Church (1820), the NSW Supreme Courts (1822), Hyde Park Barracks (1817), and the Lands Titles Office (1912–13). A statue of Macquarie, the Governor of NSW from 1810 to 1822, was installed at the beginning of this street in Hyde Park in 2013, to little critique but has since sparked debate (Moore 2013; Daley 2017; Kidd 2019). This sculpture surveils his street and shares the intersection with sculptures of Prince Albert (1866) and Queen Victoria (1888). Not only are the streets which line the park home to essential parts of Sydney’s history and cultural identity, the overlay of names and these sites frame the park within an antagonistic landscape of colonisation, leaving little or no trace of the violent struggles that characterise the colonial past and its traumatic memories.



An agonistic counterpoint to the surrounding mapping of colonial settlement and order is found in the monument to the Great Irish Famine (1999), by Hossein and Angela Valamanesh (‘Irish Famine Memorial’ n.d.). This understated installation faces Hyde Park and breaks through the wall of Hyde Park Barracks to interrupt the colonial power narrative of the adjacent streets and buildings. Its spareness and simplicity allude to the famine, the dislocation of immigrants’ stories and their link to the Barracks where many female Irish immigrants fleeing the famine began new lives in Australia. A table traverses the wall, never whole until visitors ‘rely on memory to complete the image’ (‘Artist’s Vision’ 2018). The glass panel inserted into the wall blocks access but allows glimpses through the wall, sandblasted with the names of Irish women immigrants in ‘faint and fading’ text indicating ‘the frail and inconstant nature of memory’ (‘Artist’s Vision’ 2018). Here, in contrast to the historical monuments dedicated to World War I in the nearby Hyde Park, the imperfect, fragile work of memory, its partiality and gaps, is brought to the fore in an artistic work which foregrounds working-class female voices and stories generally omitted in colonial narratives. It thus offers a more complex record of the past, which is also present in Albert’s war memorial, which we will return to later in this chapter. Hyde Park is punctuated with monuments that record people and events deemed worthy of commemoration and demonstrating in some instances how local context can shape the memory and narrative of traumatic events. The oldest, the Thornton Obelisk, dates from 1857, and is a monument to an early Mayor of the city. Many of the sculptures are of European historical figures; prominent monuments are situated in each half of the park to the British explorer James Cook (1879) and the NSW legislator William Bede Dalley (1897), while others like the Sandringham Gardens are a memorial to King George VI.1 The northern end of the park includes a significant sculptural monument: the Archibald Memorial Fountain, a gift from J. F. Archibald with links to World War I. Archibald was a prominent journalist and publisher who gave the fountain by François Sicard to the city as a monument to the associations between France and Australia and World War I (Anon 1932). The gesture of friendship is central to the function of the Fountain as a memorial, which although initially proposed for inclusion in the Royal Botanical Gardens was incorporated into Weekes’ designs. Inspired by classical myths, the Fountain is dominated by the figure of Apollo, ‘who represents the Arts’, a fan of water radiating all around him. On a lower level, three groupings



can be seen based around the figures of Diana ‘standing for poetry and harmony’, Pan representing ‘the good things of the earth’ and Theseus who stands for ‘sacrifice for the public good’. The Fountain thus symbolises the bonds formed in battle, with no overt military references, and stands as a monument that looks to peace (Anon 1932, p. 9). This substantial gift to the city of Sydney was unveiled on 14 March 1932, and the absence of overt references to the recent war was remarked upon by Mr. Kelly, representing the donor’s estate: Perhaps some people […] might have preferred this memorial to be of a more military character. I think that the sculptor has been wise in making it symbolical, not of the war where these brave French and Australian soldiers fell, but rather of the peaceful and enlightened ideas for which they gave their lives. (Anon 1932, p. 9)

The Fountain, in its symbolism and lack of direct reference to what was a recent war, avoided controversy; its abstraction offered a grander, more hopeful and ultimately cosmopolitan vision. It can be viewed in the context of the different international discourse—peace and universal brotherhood—that dominated the 1930s. It sought to enact the very specific requests of its benefactor, described at the unveiling ceremony as a ‘champion for the freedom of thought and the free play of intellectual forces’, who ‘feared that Australia, as a country of primary industries might degenerate into a condition of chronic intellectual stagnation’ and who aspired through his gift to make a contribution to the intellectual and artistic life of Sydney (Kelly, cited in Anon 1932, p. 9). The central avenue connects the Archibald Memorial Fountain to the formal landscape of memory in the southern end of the park defined by the Anzac War Memorial which opened two years later in 1934. These two monuments dominate the park but are not the first monuments to World War I; they are predated by the Emden Gun. This monument was unveiled on 21 December 1917—the same year that the Imperial War Museum opened in London—by the Lord Mayor of Sydney in front of thousands of people. A gift from the federal government, the council erected the gun to commemorate in clearly antagonistic terms the ‘destruction of the German raider Emden by HMAS Sydney’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1917, p.  12). This battle was the first wartime action of the Australian naval forces and was reported in great detail to Australian audiences by Charles Bean, who at the time was an official war correspondent



and became the official historian of the war, playing a crucial role in the establishment of the Australian War Memorial (AWM) in Canberra (Bean 1914, p.  10; Inglis n.d.). The east face of the monument records the names of those killed in action while the north face lists the officers on board the ship. The official speeches at its unveiling further emphasise the antagonistic nature of this monument, celebrating it as ‘a trophy of war— won by the youngest navy in the world’ and establishing the local navy in the colonial hierarchy as ‘worthy to rank with the great and glorious parent—the British Navy’ (Sydney Morning Herald 1917, p. 12). The same press report, however, draws attention to the complex politico-historical context by underlining how the ceremony happened just one day after the second rejection of conscription by the Australian population, a vote that was highly divided along political and sectarian lines. The Navy Captain present at the unveiling, Captain John C. T. Glossop, received a standing ovation and is recorded as speaking ‘with considerable emotion’: It is with very mixed feelings that I am taking part in this ceremony. You all know a great referendum has taken place. What can be my feelings on the subject. You have again decided on ‘No’ (Voices: Not yet, not yet) Do you still refuse to reinforce your men at the front? (Voices: No, no) By your votes yesterday you decided ‘No’. If everyone in my ship did as he liked, how would I get on in action? (Sydney Morning Herald 1917, p. 12)

The fact that this relatively modest memorial opened during a period of heated debate is lost today and there is little acknowledgement, here or elsewhere, of the significant divisions the failed referenda left on Australian society. Furthermore, the Emden Gun’s prominent position as a site of memory is especially important when considered in relation to a press report from 1931. It was used by a group of officers from HMAS Sydney to commemorate the German sailors’ deaths, by placing a wreath at the memorial, in the presence of the German Consul, with plans for the wreath to be taken back to the German city of Emden ‘as a gesture of sympathy from the Australians’ (Sun 1931, p. 5). The group then walked to The Cenotaph and placed a wreath for Australian sailors. This gesture was a broadly cosmopolitan memory act, acknowledging loss and the individuals on both sides of the conflict. This layer of history is also missing in the current presentation of the gun, which as an antagonistic war trophy offers little attempt to recognise broader context. This gap could be filled by introducing some of these more complex agonistic narratives which



engage with the Emden Gun in a way that would acknowledge battle but also unsettle any simplistic hero/victim narrative, thereby presenting a fuller, more critical engagement with the past.

The Anzac War Memorial The southern end of Hyde Park, dominated by the Anzac War Memorial building, is typically reserved for more formal commemorations. The memorial was designed by Bruce Dellit (Apperly and Reynolds n.d.), in close collaboration with the English Australian sculptor Rayner Hoff (Hutchison n.d.), who had served in the war, between 1930 and 1934. Hoff’s sculptures are integral to the building. Across the exterior, these sculptures tell ‘in simple and complete detail the story of the men of the Anzac’ (Elliot 1934, p.  49) while the Hall of Memory and the Hall of Silence, in the centre, are spaces of contemplation, the starred ceiling honouring the lives lost. This is given striking visual expression in Hoff’s ‘Sacrifice’ at the centre of the memorial via a space designed to force a particular focus: Here, in bronze, growing forth from the bronze paving designed to symbolise the eternal flames of Sacrifice, is the very heart and core of the Memorial. Here, placed so that all who enter the Hall of Memory must gaze down upon it, thereby making physical and mental acknowledgement of the spirit which it symbolises, is a group of sculptures symbolising Sacrifice. […] There is no pomp, no vain glory, no glamour in this group; rather is there stark tragedy, grim reality and bitter truth. (Elliot 1934, pp. 49–50)

The soldier in sacrifice is nude, held aloft by the women and children left behind, thereby making a broader acknowledgement of the cost of war. The emphasis on sacrifice of the generic individual is further reinforced by a contemplative Pool of Reflection and terrace space, which are the ceremonial sites used for key commemorative events on the northern side of the memorial. This focus, however, tells us little about the broader politico-historical context of conflict or the stories and agency of individuals. Through its majestic design, the Anzac War Memorial avoids engagement with any of the more complicated, traumatic war experiences or memories of them. This memorial was one of the last state-dedicated monuments built to World War I in Australia (NSW Environment & Heritage n.d.) and is one



of the largest and most complex. Its design and function were much debated, underlining the importance that recognising and remembering this conflict had for local communities. The monument was thus shaped by its use as a site of memory but also of support for three ‘returned soldier organisations’. The original construction during the depression was supported by public subscription and NSW government funding. The sculptures and very structure of the building articulate ideas of sites central to the war; niches in the hall of memory are devoted to specific places and battle zones—Gallipoli, France and Belgium, Egypt and Palestine; New Guinea and the High Seas and set into the floor of this space are stones from New Guinea, Flanders, Gallipoli, and Palestine. A sense of place and idea of the battle are then symbolically visualised in the narrative relief panels on the outside of the building that evoke scenes from the western front and Sinai-Palestine. This opportunity for focus and the evocation of place in effect transpose these different traumatic sites of memory to Australian soil. Public support was vital to the construction of the memorial and one innovative way of raising funds was the opportunity for individuals to purchase stars for the dome of the Hall of Memory. An article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph called this a patriotic duty in somewhat antagonistic terms, suggesting that: A star in the dome of the Memorial Shrine is the name of a soldier of New South Wales; already set with other hundreds of thousands Australian names, in the firmament of our history. To place one star with the rest is so little to give; yet, small as it is, it is the opportunity for each contributor once more to ‘do his bit’ in honoring immortal memories and rewarding the soldier’s illimitable sacrifice. (Daily Telegraph 1934, p. 60)

This personalisation of the memorial is vital to its function as a site of memory and is continued in the current building with visitors able to purchase stars to be dropped into the Hall of Silence. These are then collected by staff and incinerated with the ashes returned to the Memorial. Another continuation of this legacy is the invitation by the Memorial to ‘purchase a star’ for the Memorial’s ‘Online Constellation of Honour and Memory’ with patrons invited to leave a ‘message in memory of a veteran’ (‘Buy a Star’ n.d.). Within the memory framework developed by Cento Bull and Hansen (2016), these memory practices can be interpreted as promoting heroic glorification rather than critical engagement with past events.



The recent extensive renovation and expansion project of the memorial was part of a centenary project. This saw the prominent Australian architect, Richard Johnson, complete Dellit’s original plans and design a new underground exhibition and education space. Importantly, the new plans are embedded into current understandings of Australian pre-settlement history, which recognise the traditional owners of the land in the observation that it is located on ‘a traditional gathering place for the Eora People’ (Johnson 2018). This memorial has a core function today to honour ‘service and sacrifice’ (‘Anzac Memorial’ n.d.). The upper spaces seek to encourage a contemplative atmosphere, while the new lower spaces offer a dedicated exhibition space together with a library and education spaces. In its latest incarnation, the building continues to serve certain antagonistic ideas of memory initiated by the original memorial but also expands its interpretive and educational role. The new exhibition spaces are vital to the ongoing relevance and transformation of the monument. No longer providing proactive support for veterans, the extension has expanded the opportunity to use the memorial and exploit the exhibitions as spaces of communication (Belcher 1992; McLean 1999). In a seemingly more cosmopolitan memory mode, the current displays include significant amounts of textual information that explain and offer a context to the story of Australian war and peace service. The exhibition seeks to contextualise the building, give insight into this history, and to tell the story of the ‘individuals—sailors, soldiers, medical personnel and airmen and airwomen—as case studies to put a human face to the experience of war or deployment on peacekeeping operations and allow the visitor to make an emotional connection to the exhibition content’ (‘The Centenary Exhibition’ n.d.). However, the unproblematised hero narrative continues in a key feature of the display: a diorama of the Battle of Passchendaele with a particular focus on the NSW-born soldier Captain Clarence Jeffries, posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for his bravery in this action. The incorporation of a significant new sculptural commission by Australian artist Fiona Hall is the centrepiece of the new subterranean Hall of Service. Hall’s artwork is about place but shifts the usual extraterritorial focus to the local by powerfully incorporating the names of towns where soldiers enlisted and soil samples from each site. These physical tokens of sites of memory are positioned next to the names of their source, listing and embodying places of significance. The display of Australian place names and soil frames the room’s oculus which is echoed in the floor



where names of key battles are inscribed together with soil from these sites. This linking of far-off battle and home continues the use of an artistic piece as central to the function of the memorial and it extends into the display spaces where 3D printed copies of some of Hoff’s sculptural figures act as part of the display to introduce the different sections of the armed forces.

Unsettling Memory Encounters in Hyde Park Two more recent monuments, a plaque to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and another more substantial monument by Tony Albert, Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall, both unveiled in 2015, complement and complicate Weekes’ design and Dellit’s monument. These new monuments unsettle the memory work around World War I and colonialism by introducing ideas of the complexity of memory in Australia, a multicultural nation which has yet to come fully to terms with the indigenous history of dispossession (Moreton-­ Robinson 2003; Yu 2018; Maddison 2019). The Ataturk plaque reproduces an oft-quoted speech by Ataturk: ‘Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives […] are now lying in the soil of a friendly country […] wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace’ (1934). It was unveiled by the Turkish Consul General, the Chair of the NSW Centenary of Anzac Advisory Council and the NSW Minister for Veterans Affairs, Vincent Dominello. An official initiative, the memorial was jointly funded by the NSW and Turkish governments and was described by Dominello as a ‘fitting tribute to the inspired words delivered by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a leader who captured the generosity of spirit which has been shared between Australia and Turkey since the First World War’ (Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Aboriginal Affairs, Veterans Affairs 2015). Ataturk’s words have been a mainstay in the story of Gallipoli in Australia, but recent historical research has placed them in doubt (Stanley 2013; Daley 2015). The discussion around the quotation highlights the challenges in the commemoration of this period of history and how it is remembered. Tony Albert’s monument Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall (Fig. 6.2), commissioned by the City of Sydney Council, commemorates the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women. It is public acknowledgement of a hidden history which Albert explains is vital: ‘These are stories that are written into history: they aren’t represented in our institutions […] It’s long overdue. It’s confronting. It might ruffle a few



Fig. 6.2  Tony Albert, Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall, 2015, Installation view, Hyde Park, Sydney, Australia. Image courtesy of the artist and City of Sydney

feathers, but they are feathers that need to be ruffled’ (Kembrey 2015, p. 6). The installation is made of four seven-metre tall standing bullets, and three fallen shells arranged on a stylised bronze boomerang and surrounded with plants used in Indigenous ceremony. It is designed to be an active site of memory and ceremony, offering space for reflection on the history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander servicemen and women and their neglect on return to Australia (Scarlett 2015). The boomerang base is an integral part of the monument. When Albert discovered how many soldiers were given boomerangs as tokens for a hoped return, he decided to incorporate the motif as ‘a kind of final resting place for not only those still standing, but the spirits of those who never returned’ and to acknowledge the park ‘as an important contest ground for local Gadigal people’ (Reed 2015, p.  56). Central to the project is a new historical awareness represented by groups such as the Coloured Diggers Project,



which started in Sydney with Pastor Ray Minniecon and the Babana Aboriginal Men’s Group (Oakley 2015; Riches 2016), and campaigned for a memorial to ensure that the community as a whole acknowledges and better appreciates the history of Indigenous servicemen and women. Albert importantly describes his memorial in broadly agonistic terms as ‘not a monument that in any way glorifies war’, but instead ‘uses bold and evocative imagery to stir strong emotions in visitors’ (Reed 2015, p. 58). It invites conversation and acknowledgement. This process of historical meaning-making and memorialisation was honoured when the memorial was unveiled by the NSW Governor, a former Chief of the Australian Defence Force, in a speech that acknowledged the prejudice that Indigenous people suffered on their return from service and suggested that ‘This public artwork restores Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heroes to their rightful place in the canon of Australian war history from which they had vanished’ (Hurley 2015, np). This combination of art and commemoration is present in many of the sites of memory in Hyde Park, from the Archibald Memorial Fountain to the Anzac War Memorial, but Albert’s monument differs in that it relies on difficult personal symbolism drawn from his family story, as for Albert the story of his grandfather ‘encapsulates the struggles that other Indigenous servicemen and women faced’ (Reed 2015, p. 56). This is a history of loss and ongoing struggle as elucidated in the monument’s inscription, written by prominent Indigenous woman and scholar Anita Heiss: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have always defended their country. Indigenous Australians are known to have served in the state colonial forces before Federation and have proudly carried on this tradition of service. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diggers experienced the horror of war on the battlefield and many made the ultimate sacrifice. The sad reality for these veterans was that equality in the country they fought to defend remained a distant dream. This memorial on the land of the Gadigal clan pays tribute to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have defended our country—the unsung heroes, our brothers and sisters, our mates. We remember those fallen. We honour those standing.



Yininmadyemi Thou didst let fall thus seeks to link past and present, incorporating individual stories and acknowledging heroism and the difficulties for Indigenous servicemen and women when they returned to be accepted into the traditional stories and practices of commemoration. In asking what it means to defend ‘our country’, it offers an agonistic counterpoint to the narratives and types of memory offered by the other sites of memory across the park and thus invites a renewed discussion about who should be remembered in World War I commemorations and how. The openness of its inscription also provokes reflection on other wars and historical moments where Indigenous people’s narratives may not yet be fully acknowledged. Above all, it makes reference to the silence and invisibility, in mainstream history and monuments, about the Frontier Wars.

Conclusion The recent commemorations of the centenary of World War I have reinvigorated historical research, community collaboration, and given rise to significant financial and intellectual investment in the telling and documenting of this history in Australia. The monuments and events discussed in this chapter represent various modes of memory, mostly antagonistic in nature, and the ongoing struggle to introduce more perspectives, to develop broader and deeper contextualisation; in short, to move towards more cosmopolitan and agonistic forms. In a country formed by traumatic experiences of colonialism, white settlement, and Indigenous dispossession, the monuments in Hyde Park reveal a history of growing awareness and a desire to offer more inclusive, nuanced, and critical memories of World War I.  The memory modes on display offer different ways of approaching and documenting the past; some like the Emden Gun are war trophies and yet the history of their use for commemorative purposes reflects a more sophisticated cosmopolitan acknowledgement of the cost of war. The Anzac War Memorial and Albert’s monument are key memory sites linked by the increasing role of individual stories in explaining and reflecting on the complexity of war. They differ in the way they do this, however: the war memorial retains an antagonistic hero/victim narrative which glorifies World War I, whilst Albert’s monument opens up a more ambivalent space with a focus on Indigenous voices which are still largely neglected in memories of war and difficult history. Hyde Park offers a grand site of memory while smaller community projects often return to local and individual stories of loss, echoing the original function of many



of these monuments for Australian communities as sites to remember the traumatic loss of their sons in often far-flung places. The politics and discussions about how to commemorate and best serve the memory of events like World War I are an ongoing subject of debate in Australia. A recent open letter signed by 80 prominent Australians, including Paul Barratt, former Secretary, Department of Defence, numerous former senior staff from the AWM including the previous director Brendon Kelson and historians Marilyn Lake, Stuart Macintyre, Mark McKenna, Clare Write, and Christina Twomey among others, criticised the federal government’s decision to spend $498 millions on a refurbishment of the AWM, which includes the demolition of an exhibition hall built in 2001 to further expand display space. They argue that the spending is excessive and that the money could be better spent on other cultural institutions or to directly benefit veterans and their families (‘Opposition to War Memorial’s $498 Million Extensions Grows’ 2019). It will be interesting to see how this project develops, particularly as the centenary of World War I implies that the living memory of these traumatic events is growing ever more distant.2

Notes 1. The James Cook statue, and how white explorers and settlers are honoured in Australia, has recently been a subject of debate (S. Grant 2017; Wanganul Chronicle 2017; Ireland 2018). For evidence of wider discussions in Australia, see Gilchrist (2018). 2. The authors thank Dr. Kerry Ann O’Reilly for her insights into unofficial commemorative practices and accompanying us on visits to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. Much of this research was carried out during a visiting research fellowship by Parish to the School of Literature, Arts and Media at the University of Sydney in July–August 2018.

References Achille, E, Forsdick, C & Moudelino, L (eds.) 2020, Postcolonial realms of memory: Sites and symbols in modern France, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool. Anon., 1932, ‘Memorial fountain’, Sydney Morning Herald, 15 March. ‘Anzac Memorial’ n.d., ‘Anzac Memorial Hyde Park Sydney’, Anzac Memorial, viewed 20 March 2019, . Apperly, RE & Reynolds, P n.d., ‘Dellit, Charles Bruce (1898–1942)’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian



National University, Canberra, viewed 12 November 2018, . ‘Artist’s vision’ 2018, Irish Famine Memorial (blog), viewed 12 November 2019, . Ashton, P & Hamilton, P 2008, Places of the heart: Memorials, public history and the state in Australia since 1960, Public History Review, vol. 15, pp. 1–29. Australian Government 2018, ‘Department of Communications and the Arts annual report 2017–18’, Annual report, Department of Communications and the Arts, Canberra. Australian Government n.d., ‘Anzac centenary local grants’, Anzac Centenary, viewed 27 March 2019, . Bean, C 1914, ‘The Emden’s last fight’, Argus, 4 December. Beaumont, J 2003, ‘The state of Australian history of war’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 34, no. 121, pp. 165–68. Beaumont, J 2013, Broken nation: Australians in the great war, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest. Belcher, M 1992, Exhibitions in museums, Leicester University Press, Leicester. Bennett, T 1995, The birth of the museum: History, theory, politics, Routledge, London. Berry, L n.d., ‘5000 POPPIES: A community tribute of respect and remembrance’, 5000 Poppies, viewed 26 March 2019, . Brown, A J 1934, ‘Hyde Park Sydney. Its evolution from a plan’, The Home, vol. 15, no. 4, . Cento Bull, A & Hansen, HL 2016, ‘On agonistic memory’, Memory Studies, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 390–404. ‘Buy a star’ n.d., Anzac Memorial Hyde Park, viewed 3 April 2019, . Clark, A 2017, ‘The place of Anzac in Australian historical consciousness’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 19–34. Clouston Associates 2006, ‘Hyde Park. Plan of management and masterplan, Vol 1’. Sydney. Daily Telegraph 1934, ‘Stars of remembrance’, 1 March. Daley, P 2015, ‘Ataturk’s “Johnnies and Mehmets” words about the Anzacs are shrouded in doubt’, The Guardian, 20 April, . Daley, P 2017. ‘Statues are not history. Here are six in Australia that need rethinking’. The Guardian, 24 August, .



Daley, P 2018, ‘Australia has reached peak ANZAC. And not before time’, The Guardian, 11 November, . Elliot, S 1934, The book of the Anzac memorial, Beacon Press, Sydney. Gilchrist, S 2018, ‘Surfacing histories: Memorials and public art in Perth’, Artlink vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 42–47. Grant, S 2017, ‘America tears down its racist history, we ignore ours’, ABC News, 18 August, . Harris, M & Commonwealth of Australia n.d., ‘Funding the centenary of Anzac budget review 2012–13 Index’, Budget Review 2012–13, viewed 28 September 2019, . Hoskins, I 2003, “The core of the city”: Public parks, respectability and civic regulation in Sydney, National Identities, vol. 5, no. 1, p. 7. Hurley, D 2015, ‘Governor of New South Wales speech: Launch and dedication of Yininmadyemi—Thou Didst Let Fall’, Sydney, . Hutchison, N S n.d., ‘Hoff, George Rayner (1894–1937)’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, Canberra, viewed 12 November 2018, . Inglis, K n.d., ‘Bean, Charles Edwin (1879–1968)’, in Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, Canberra, viewed 27 March 2019, . Inglis, K & Brazier, J 1998, Sacred places: War memorials in the Australian landscape Miegunyah Press at Melbourne University Press, Carlton. Ireland, T 2018, ‘How Captain Cook became a contested national symbol’ Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May, . ‘Irish famine memorial’ n.d., Irish Famine Memorial, viewed 20 March 2019, . Johnson, RA 2018, ‘The architectural composition of the centenary extension’, NSW ANZAC Memorial Hyde Park Sydney, August 2018, < ­ http://www.>. Kembrey, M 2015, ‘Bullets stand for all the Indigenous diggers who stood in the line of fire’, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 April.



Kidd, J 2019, ‘“Essentially white men”: Sydney’s statues in spotlight again’, ABC News, 8 July, . Lake, M 2006, ‘Monuments of manhood and colonial dependence: The cult of Anzac as compensation’, in Lake, M (ed.), Memory, monuments and museums: The past in the present, Melbourne University Press, Australian Academy of the Humanities, Carlton, pp. 43–57. Lake, M & Reynolds, H (eds.) 2010, What’s wrong with ANZAC? The militarisation of Australian history, 1st ed., University of NSW Press, Sydney. Maddison, S 2019, The colonial fantasy: Why white Australia can’t solve Black problems, Allen & Unwin, Sydney. McLean, K 1999, ‘Museum exhibitions and the dynamics of dialogue’, Daedalus, vol. 128, no. 3, pp. 83–107. McKenna, M 2010, ‘Anzac day: How did it become Australia’s national day?’ in Lake, M & Reynolds, H (eds.), What’s wrong with ANZAC? The militarisation of Australian history, University of NSW Press, Sydney, pp. 110–34. McKenna, M & Ward, S 2007, ‘“It was really moving, mate”: The Gallipoli pilgrimage and sentimental nationalism in Australia’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 38, no. 129, pp. 141–51. McPhedran, I 2015, ‘Australia spending $8800 per dead WWI Soldier Germany spending $2’ News Corp Australia Network, 1 September, . Minister for Citizenship and Communities, Aboriginal Affairs, Veterans Affairs 2015, ‘Media release: Ataturk memorial unveiled in Sydney’, NSW Government, . Moore, C 2013, ‘Governor Macquarie statue unveiling’, Clover Moore, 31 January, . Moreton-Robinson, AM 2003, ‘I still call Australia home: Indigenous belonging and place in a white postcolonising society’, in Ahmed, S (ed.), Uprootings/ regroundings: Questions of home and migration, Bloomsbury, London, pp. 23–40. Mouffe, C 2000, The democratic paradox, Verso, London. Mouffe, C 2005, On the political, thinking in action, Routledge, London. Nora, P 1989, ‘Between memory and history: Les Lieux de Mémoire’, Representations, vol. 26, pp. 7–24. NSW Environment & Heritage n.d., ‘ANZAC memorial’, NSW Office of Environment & Heritage, viewed 31 March 2019, .



NSW Government Office for Veterans Affairs, Sydney, n.d., ‘Register of NSW war memorials’ viewed 30 March 2019, . Oakley, G 2015, ‘Honouring service and sacrifice: Yininmadyemi—Thou Didst Let Fall’, Art Monthly 278, pp. 60–61. O’Connell, A 2019, ‘Remembering the great war’, Inner West Courier, 26 March. ‘Opposition to war memorial’s $498 million extensions grows’, 2019, Honest History (blog), 23 March, . Reed, I M 2015, ‘Shifting meaning and memory: Tony Albert in conversation’, Art Monthly Australia 278, pp. 57–61. Riches, T 2016, ‘Hiding the truth: Honouring the coloured diggers—A conversation with Ray Minniecon’, ABC Religion & Ethics, 25 April, . Scarlett, P 2015, ‘Aboriginal service in the First World War: Identity, recognition and the problem of mateship, Aboriginal History Journal, vol. 39, pp. 163–81. Scates, B 2002, ‘In Gallipoli’s shadow: Pilgrimage, memory, mourning and the great war’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 33, no. 119, pp. 1–21. Scates, B 2007. ‘The first casualty of war: A reply to McKenna’s and Ward’s “Gallipoli pilgrimage and sentimental nationalism”’, Australian Historical Studies, vol. 38 no. 130, pp. 312–21. Stanley, P 2013, ‘Gallipoli—98 years on: Gallipoli club address’, Honest History (blog), 2013, . Sun, 1931, ‘War echo’, 7 November. Sydney Morning Herald, 1917, ‘Emden gun unveiled’, 22 December. ‘The centenary exhibition’, n.d., Anzac memorial Hyde Park, viewed 3 April 2019, . Wanganul Chronicle 2017, ‘Aboriginal leaders: Change words on Cook statue’, 25 August. Yu, P 2018, ‘Australian National University reconciliation lecture’, Australian National University, Canberra.


Sites of Memory, Sites of Ruination in Postcolonial France and the Francosphere Charles Forsdick

The Politics of Colonial Memory The controversy in summer 2018 around a special issue of the French conservative weekly news magazine Valeurs actuelles (Values Today) tellingly illustrated persistent divisions in France around questions of colonial memory and the wider afterlives of empire in the contemporary Republic. Entitled ‘The true history of the colonies’, the issue performed the ways in which, in the opening decades of the twentieth-first century, an apologist and on occasion nostalgic discourse for empire has become engrained in French public life (‘La vraie histoire’ 2018). In a context of French republican ideology that actively seeks to deny the ethnic diversity of the country’s postcolonial populations in the name of universalist identity, a revisionist ‘take’ on the colonial past has often created a political common ground that is far from being occupied exclusively by the extreme right. This particular intervention was, however, exemplary of an ideologically inflected rereading of colonialism that belongs to a longer and unfinished

C. Forsdick (*) University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




tradition of mourning imperial loss (Marsh and Frith 2010). The cover of Valeurs actuelles deployed the iconography of interwar pro-colonial propaganda to perpetuate a singularised narrative of colonial expansionism, a process culminating in the forfeiting of what was dubbed ‘French Algeria’—this obsolescent and obfuscatory designation is to be understood in the context of France having acknowledged only in 1999 that the Algerian war of independence (previously classed as a ‘public order operation’) was actually a war in its own right.1 In the special issue, colonialism is an ‘épopée’, an epic undertaking, and critical work seeking to understand the colonial past and discern its continued impact on the postcolonial present is dismissed, adopting vocabulary that was already common in Sarkozy’s France, as ‘repentance’.2 The articles in the magazine deploy more generally a rhetoric of pro-colonial apology that reflects the specifically French crisis in a so-called coming to terms with the past: there is increasing evidence of the replacement of any cosmopolitan engagement with memory with a more antagonistic understanding of the ways that empire continues to manifest itself in the present (Cento Bull and Hansen 2015). The historical and geographical sweep of this issue of Valeurs actuelles is wide, encompassing the colonies of the ancien régime (including the trading counters of Chandernagor and Pondichéry, themselves focus of an acute sense of loss in the context of French expansionism in Asia), and also sites of the nineteenth-century empire, acquired rapidly under the Third Republic (1870–1940, a period of colonial expansionism), such as French Indochina (itself still associated with its original designation, ‘the Pearl of the Orient’). Điên Biên Phủ, the 1954 battle in which the French were defeated by the Việt Minh communist revolutionaries, far from being the humiliation of a declining colonial power unable to see the ethical and practical illogicality of perpetuating empire in the wake of World War II, is presented as a ‘tragédie héroïque’ (heroic tragedy), and the colonisation of Africa is understood in terms of a ‘bilan positif’ (positive balance sheet), a phrase that often serves as shorthand for the denial or at least marginalisation of the systemic violence on which the establishment and perpetuation of empire depended. This whitewashing of history is most evident in discussions of Algeria, a colony characterised in the magazine by a ‘calm climate between two communities’, and the issue concludes with an article denouncing Emmanuel Macron’s campaign-trail claims in 2017 that colonialism was a crime against humanity. A list of lieux de mémoire (realms of memory) in France dedicated to Harkis and Pieds-Noirs is complemented



by a directory of associations representing those ‘repatriated’ following the Algerian War of Independence.3 The overall impression that emerges from the special issue is a statuesque, unchanging, unchangeable narrative of the colonial past, characterised by a firm refusal to acknowledge the implications of the postcolonial present. Such politics of revisionism and amnesia, underpinned by the rhetoric of colonial nostalgia and accompanying accusations against more candid historians of a self-destructive repentance for empire, is not exclusive to France, as ongoing debates in the UK and elsewhere about imperial history make clear (Dorling and Tomlinson 2019). In each country, understanding these phenomena is to be integrated actively, however, into the specific context of colonial empire and its afterlives, and also into that of the various state-sponsored measures introduced—not least in changes to educational curricula and the development of clear lieux de mémoire—as part of any memory work. The imbalance between the hypervisibility in France of the Second World War and its memorial afterlives—often dubbed the syndrome de Vichy—and the relatively low visibility of colonial empire and its contemporary manifestations has been widely commented,4 although these commemorative dynamics have recently been problematised by growing awareness of the interconnections they imply, captured not least by the concept of multidirectional memory posited by Michael Rothberg and now—through the translation of his work—increasingly recognised in France itself (2018 [2009]). Official interventions in this field, seeking to establish state-sanctioned memorial practices, have tended towards controversy: most notably, the 23 February 2005 French law on the place of colonial history in formal education was passed by the French parliament in an attempt to impose on lycée (high school) teachers (in Article 4, Paragraph 2) a requirement to teach the positive value of colonialism, in particular in relation to the French presence in North Africa (see Löytömäki 2018). Following vocal opposition and accusations of historical revisionism from various educators and historians, the specific article on ‘the positive role of the French presence overseas’, notably in North Africa, was repealed by President Jacques Chirac at the beginning of 2006. On Sarkozy’s election as president in 2007 a sustained assault on perceived ‘colonial repentance’ (discussed above) continued according to a two-pronged approach: the persistent hostility towards postcolonial migration was complemented by a rhetoric of paternalism and pro-colonial apology most evident in the discours de Dakar (Dakar speech) in July 2007, during which Sarkozy



claimed ‘the African has not sufficiently entered history’.5 Although Hollande and more recently Macron have attempted to distinguish themselves from such positions, reflecting the ways in which persistent attachment to the colonial past is complemented by its continued condemnation, it is clear that colonialism retains its status in France as ‘un passé qui ne passe pas’: a past that will not pass. The aim of this chapter is to analyse, through the prism of postcolonial ruination, the wider context of these debates around colonial memory in contemporary France. It begins with an exploration of the blind spots relating to the colonial past in one of the most influential French interventions in this field, the multiple volumes of historian Pierre Nora’s Lieux de mémoire project. I argue that this absence reveals a more generalised failure to engage with the persistent traces of colonial empire, a process evident in the postcolonial ruins—of the 1907 colonial exhibition in Paris, and of France’s overseas penal colonies—studied below. The chapters suggest that there is a need to move away from evidence of state-sponsored memory practices, whether in legislation or official commemoration, and to ground the study of colonial memory in physical sites, often those of postcolonial ruination, where the uneven dynamics of forgetting and remembering are in evidence. My argument is that it is in such locations that ‘memory-traces’ of empire (to borrow the term deployed by the Martinican novelist Patrick Chamoiseau, discussed below) can be discerned, an evidence of the ways in which the afterlives of colonialism continue to shape the postcolonial present.

Realms of Memory, Realms of Forgetting A striking example of this tension between discussions, on the one hand, of French national and republican memory and, on the other, of the afterlives of empire is found in the work of Pierre Nora and his collaborators on ‘realms of memory’.6 Les Lieux de mémoire (1984–1992) has been recognised by historians, both in France and more widely, as one of the more influential studies of memory in the late twentieth century. Its reach has been felt widely across a range of disciplines and sectors, with the memorial paradigm it proposes having been deployed in a number of other national contexts and also explored in transnational frames (see, for example, Kmec et al. 2009). Published in seven volumes over a period of eight years around the bicentenary date of the French Revolution of 1989, this collective undertaking has posited a model of rethinking the relationship



between the geography of the nation, history, and memory. The collection—and in particular the idea on which it is based—has permitted new readings of the past as it is forgotten, remembered, distorted, refracted, and variously inscribed in the nation’s collective imaginary. The concept of the lieu de mémoire has become a widely deployed item of critical terminology over the past two decades, arguably sloganised in its ubiquity, with little reference to its original usage and to the challenges inherent in its translation between contexts. Criticism has nevertheless been levelled at the project from the outset for implying not only an exclusively republican and ‘hexagonal’ conception of memory, but also a classic, if not narrow, perception of national memory in which ‘the porosity of “Frenchness”, the progressive hybridization of any such notion, its ability to be displaced and transculturated’ are all absent (Forsdick 2009, p. 278). One of the most recurrent reproaches levelled at Nora’s volumes relates thus to a very obvious absence—related to this understanding of memory exclusively in a French national frame—in a project aimed at representing the heterogeneity and plurality of France’s collective memory and identity, i.e., the absence of references to empire, colonialism, and postcoloniality, despite the work’s heavy reliance on sites of memory associated with the Third Republic. Any sustained exploration of trans-continental and even trans-Mediterranean expansion into the colonial empire and the outre-mer (overseas) is largely obscured in Les Lieux de mémoire by the clear methodological nationalism on which the collection depends. The entry on the 1931 colonial exhibition at Vincennes—a showcasing of products and people from throughout the French empire, held in the eastern suburbs of Paris—is a rare exception. Its author, historian Charles-Robert Ageron, argued that the event—despite its remarkable scope and scale—had in fact been subject to postcolonial forgetting and as a result did not qualify to be understood as a ‘realm of memory’ in its own right (Ageron 1997 [1984]). This exclusion from the project of any sustained reference to the memorial legacy of colonialism has been described by historian Gregory Mann as ‘nothing short of fantastic’ (Mann 2005), and for many critics, Nora’s project has consequently become emblematic of the incapacity and even deliberate unwillingness of French memorial practices, as discussed above, to engage with the inherent and increasingly undeniable interdependency of French history and colonial history (see Garrigus 2000). Among recent refinements of this postcolonial critique, Ann Laura Stoler’s Duress analyses Nora’s silence on those lieux de mémoire relating to colonial empire as an example of what she dubs ‘colonial aphasia’.



‘Why’, Stoler asks, ‘was there such ample room to remember the “division of space” (partage de l’espace-temps) that divided Paris from its provinces but no reference to that pervasive political distinction that still divides archival storage, history writing, and popular memory between what was Outre-Mer (Overseas) and what was France?’ (Stoler 2016, p.  58). She tracks this silencing—‘neither’, in her view, ‘an oversight nor blindness’— to Nora’s training in French republican historiography (Stoler 2016, p. 161),7 and claims to detect in his very first book, Les Français d’Algérie (1961), a barely veiled contempt for the eponymous subjects of the book, who are seen in their hybridised identity, both French and Algerian, to deviate from any benchmark of authentic ‘Frenchness’—and by extension to permit dislocation of the history of empire from that of republican France. Stoler’s analysis echoes the commentary of an earlier critic of Les Lieux de mémoire: in a 2005 essay entitled La Pensée tiède (Tepid Thought), Perry Anderson had similarly identified a colonial blind spot, linking Nora’s ‘Hexagonal’ and predominantly monocultural emphases with political anxieties evident in late twentieth-century France. Describing a process of selective remembering and of parallel forgetting that systematically effaces traces of colonial history, Anderson identifies a deployment of memory practices to underpin an explicitly ideological programme of national cohesion. He concludes ‘What is the worth of Lieux de mémoire that forgets to include Dien Bien Phu?’ (Anderson 2005, p. 53),8 alluding here to the long-suppressed episode of postcolonial humiliation during the Indochinese War, arguably more absent from French collective memory than episodes in the Algerian War of Independence. It is now over a decade since Anderson published this critique: as the discussion above of the special issue of Valeurs actuelles makes clear, Điên Biên Phủ has slowly since the 1990s begun to acquire a currency in nostalgic, revisionist and apologist accounts of colonial empire, and the final battle of the First Indochina War has, despite its absence from Nora’s collection, indeed never been subject to complete invisibility—Pierre Schoendoerffer, a veteran of the battle, made a film on the subject in 1992; several bandes dessinées (comic books, most notably Les Oubliés d’Annam by Christian Lax & Frank Giroud) have been devoted to the conflict; in Viet Nam itself, the battlefield is a major lieu de mémoire in its own right, with Điện Biên Phủ a recurrent subject in popular culture (in 2011, it featured in the video game 7554: Glorious Memories Revived, the title of which refers to the date of the Việt Minh’s victory over France).



Without expanding to include such postcolonial realms of memory, Pierre Nora’s lieux de mémoire project grew organically during the period of its production, reflecting political changes in France itself. The colonial silences with which it has been associated have now been increasingly challenged, and it has become possible to inscribe French national history and memory within a colonial frame. For instance, notwithstanding the historiographic controversies they generated among right-wing intellectuals such as Alain Finkelkraut and Eric Zemmour, a number of chapters of Patrick Boucheron’s best-selling collection Histoire mondiale de la France (2017)—to which Nora responded critically in an article in Le Nouvel Observateur—focused actively on colonial histories and their postcolonial afterlives. Such a shift suggests that, even in France itself, there is an emerging openness to post-national and transnational understandings of history and memory. The risk remains, however, that such approaches move beyond the national, yet omit to follow a postcolonial logic, failing to take account of its memorial afterlives. These debates have customarily been understood in France in terms of conflict, i.e., as a continuation of the war by other (memorial) means (Liauzu 2005). Benjamin Stora, a leading historian of Algeria who was heavily involved in these controversies, has increasingly called for greater consensus (Stora 2007), an aim that has become, in the work for a new generation of historians, a search for ‘memorial compromise’ (Melchior 2017). It is in such a context that—following Stoler and others—this chapter takes the concept of postcolonial ruination to interrogate and attenuate further the notion of the colonial lieu de mémoire. As such, it suggests, through the analysis of two very different case studies (the first domestic, the second transcolonial and transnational), how understandings of the concept may evolve to encapsulate the dynamics of memory—and to contribute, both in theory and in practice, to emerging new narratives of the colonial past and postcolonial present.

Among the Ruins of Colonial Empire Recent research on postcolonial realms of memory has engaged with Nora’s original project and sought to address the silences and lacunae on which its core conception is based (see Achille et al. 2020). Some of this work takes phenomena originally included as lieux de mémoire, such as the Pantheon (a mausoleum containing the remains of prominent French citizens) or the tricolour (the French national flag), and seeks to



‘postcolonialise’ them and rewrite them into their colonial contexts; others identify gaps, and propose supplementary colonial or postcolonial examples. One exception, discussed above, is the 1931 colonial exhibition at Vincennes, to which Charles-Robert Ageron devoted his essay in Nora’s original collection. One of the last remaining permanent vestiges of this major event is the Musée national (initially Cité nationale) de l’histoire de l’immigration, formerly the Musée permanent des colonies. A striking example of palimpsestic manifestations of colonial history in the built environment, this museum of immigration is the latest in a sequence of re-­ purposing and re-badgings of the building, which have seen the colonial museum re-baptised as the Musée de la France d’Outre-mer, then in 1960 as the Musée des Arts africains et océaniens, and finally in 1990 as the Musée national des Arts d’Afrique et d’Océanie (see Arquez-Roth 2014; Monjaret and Roustan 2017; Crowley 2020). Contemporary visitors to this museum are faced on the exterior of the building with the imperialist bas-reliefs by Alfred Janniot (showing the contribution of the colonies to France), and inside in the salle des fêtes (festival hall) with the murals by Pierre Ducos de la Haille (showing the supposedly reciprocal contribution of France to the colonies), as well as the period tropical aquarium in the basement. There can be no doubt as to the building’s original purpose, but the experience is at the same time marked by slippage between this overtly colonial container and its would-be postcolonial contents. Standing in contrast to this site of colonial permanency is the Jardin d’agronomie tropicale (Garden of tropical agronomy), located at the outer reaches of the Bois de Vincennes (Vincennes forest), site of an earlier and more modest staging of imperial propaganda, that of the 1907 exposition coloniale, and now characterised by overt processes of postcolonial ruination. What is striking for contemporary visitors moving between this site, purpose-built for the 1931 colonial exhibition, and the lesser known one of the 1907 colonial exhibition are the starkly different narratives of postcolonial memory construction they reveal. On the one hand, the museum of the history of immigration deploys the techniques of contemporary museology to elaborate a narrative of population displacement characterised by complementary strategies: a conflation of different forms of migration, in which there is a risk that the socio-historical specificities of colonial and postcolonial mobility are ground down; a clear teleology, leading to integration into a seemingly and unproblematically elastic understanding of French republicanism; and a tendency to attenuate the documentary with the aesthetic, leading to some uncertainty as to what exactly is on



display (see Sherman 2016). On the other hand, the visitor to the Jardin d’agronomie tropicale—despite recent partial renovation and stabilisation of the park—is faced with no such coherently constructed narrative, no such stage-management of the colonial past for the overt instrumentalising purposes of the postcolonial present. Wandering amongst traces of the 1907 colonial exhibition (and in particular the replicas of indigenous structures erected on that occasion, as part of the logic of the ‘human zoo’ around which the site was structured), between the various buildings used to house the educational and research activity in the field of agronomy still conducted on the site, amongst the memorials to colonial troops dedicated following World War I (when the site itself was used to house injured tirailleurs indigènes [colonial soldiers]), the visitor is struck instead by the systematic neglect of what Robert Aldrich has dubbed a ‘virtual theme park of French colonialism on the outskirts of Paris’ (Aldrich 1999, p.  199). The original ‘temple du souvenir indochinois’ (Temple of Indochinese memory) was destroyed by fire in 1984 (Jennings 2003); the same fate befell the Congo pavilion, another remnant of the 1907 exhibition, in 2004; and other structures, such as the Pavillon du Maroc (Morocco pavilion), today covered in graffiti and slowly falling into dilapidation, provide temporary refuge for the homeless. Aldrich sums up the complex experience of this palimpsestic site and the multiple meanings it encloses: A visitor to the Jardin tropical today sees in the relics of empire reminders of multiple colonial experiences—research and teaching, exhibitions, the use of overseas troops in French wars, the continuing work of scientific organisations. Yet the neglect of this colonial patrimony—by both authorities who have done little for the gardens’ upkeep and by Parisians, most of whom hardly know of its existence—suggests not just different memories of empire but a certain forgetfulness about the colonial past. (Aldrich 2005, p. 67)

Emblematic of these processes of fragmentation, neglect, amnesia, marginalisation, and ruination are the abandoned sections of the once imposing ‘monument à la gloire de l’expansion coloniale’ (monument to the glory of colonial expansion), sculpted by Jean-Baptiste Belloc, completed by Musetti following Belloc’s death, and placed initially in the jardin colonial in 1922. Formally inaugurated at the Porte Dorée in 1931 opposite the official entrance to the colonial exhibition, it was then moved from that site in 1949 to the Château de Vincennes and finally transferred back,



in 1961 (in the final months of the Algerian War of Independence), to its original location where, partly overgrown by foliage, it still languishes today. Originally an allegorical assemblage, the monument was made up of five elements: a seated French woman representing the Republic; a Gallic cock, astride a globe; and three women—of Caribbean, African and Asian origin—representing France’s major colonial possessions. When returned to the park in the early 1960s, these elements were broken up and scattered, only to be reunited (although not reassembled) in the 1980s. Now a niche tourist attraction for those seeking out ruins of empire, the statue has also recently inspired a work by the French-Vietnamese artist Thu-Van Tran, whose 2017 installation ‘Peau blanche’ (white skin) made plaster casts of parts of the monument, including the hands and feet of the colonised figures, to signify the manual labour by which the empire was built: concrete traces of the past are recast in the present as part of the wider reflection on the afterlives of colonialism that the artist develops in her work.9 In Dominique Pinon’s terms, the Paris tropical garden—with its ruined structures from the 1907 exhibition and other traces of the colonial past in the form of these fragments of statuary—is to be situated somewhere ‘between the charm of ruins and the denial of memory’, suggesting clear connections between a poetics of dilapidation and the colonial amnesia with which this has long been associated (Pinon 2005, p.  143). The emblematic nature of the site is reflected in its deployment as the setting for a 2017 novel co-written by Thomas Reverdy and Sylvain Venayre in which it becomes the stage for intergenerational debates between a young historian and an older novelist about colonial history and its impact on the present (Reverdy and Venayre 2017). Jardin des colonies (Garden of the colonies)—a title that, significantly, restores the site’s original name—is ostensibly an account of discussions around the life and career of Jean Dybowski, a French agronomist, naturalist, and explorer of Polish heritage who was responsible for founding the original jardin d’agronomie tropicale. Using an iterative and ambulatory method, the novel not only provides one of the most comprehensive accounts of the site and the entangled histories it contains, it also suggests that sites of postcolonial ruination reflect the memorial excesses of a history subject to official amnesia. Encapsulating the fragile dynamics of forgetting and remembering, the text provides a context for dialogue between the extremes of nostalgia and repentance, making it clear that this marginalised, dilapidated lieu d’oubli (site of forgetting) is in fact related closely to contemporary



concerns ranging from the rise of multiple forms of extremism to debates around the future of pro-colonial statuary: ‘The garden retains the eroded, fragile imprint of a past that is hard to recognize as ours, but it is not its fault’, the novel concludes. ‘We’re the ones who are worried. We are the ones who are fragile’ (Reverdy and Venayre 2017, p. 206).

The Postcolonial Memory-Traces of the French Penal Colony Among the structures that remain standing in the jardin d’agronomie tropicale is the pavillon de la Guyane, reminder of the persistent desire— reflected in such concrete examples of imperial propaganda—to turn French Guiana into a settler colony and to challenge its reduction in the popular imagination to a convict destination. Although it does not feature in Pierre Nora’s original collection, the bagne (penal colony) is the second (very different) site of postcolonial ruination on which this chapter focuses. Initially functioning as a metropolitan site of memory, the penal colony is now primarily associated with the outre-mer (French Guiana and New Caledonia) and the former empire (Viet Nam). The closure of the penitentiaries in the port cities of Brest, Rochefort and Toulon coincided with the inauguration of penal transportation to sites in the French colonial empire,10 and although traces of these institutions in all three cities are very limited, a number of buildings constructed with convict labour remain prominent in the urban landscape. As recent work by Clare Anderson, Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, and others has revealed (see Anderson 2018), the French penal colonies went on to form part of what Michel Foucault dubbed a ‘carceral archipelago’, a network of sites of confinement that is now benefiting from increasing scholarly attention from a global perspective. This approach is at once comparative, seeking to explore the convergences and divergences of different regimes of incarceration, but also transnational, highlighting complex transcolonial patterns of transportation, linking for example sites in Viet Nam with others in French Guiana.11 The impact of penal colonies in the French empire was extensive, suggesting their entanglement in the practices and ideologies of expansionism—in his 1938 text Retour de Guyane, Léon Gontran Damas even describes, in the extreme case of French Guiana, their persistent and destructive interdependency (Damas 2003 [1938]). Penal establishments functioned in the Maghreb (in the



military bagnes known as Biribi) and Indochina (most notably on the Vietnamese island of Poulo Condore or Con Dao, see Hayward and Tran 2014), but the main locations for transportation (of civil prisoners) and deportation (or political prisoners) were the multiple sites associated with French Guiana and New Caledonia. This organised removal of prisoners to locations far removed from the métropole emerged in the 1850s, within several decades of the inauguration of the post-revolutionary colonial empire and in the immediate aftermath of the abolition of plantation slavery. It was to the ancien régime colony of French Guiana that administrators turned first. The transformation of a colonial space into a bagne served multiple purposes: it allowed removal from metropolitan France of those considered politically or socially undesirable; in theory at least, it provided (at relatively low cost) the labour required to develop the infrastructure needed for the mise en valeur (exploitation) of the colonies; and finally, the convicts—during and more importantly at the end of their sentences, when they were subject to a continuation of their punishment known as doublage—provided the settlers needed to inhabit places designated as colonie de peuplement (settlement colony), and became as a result central to a policy of settler colonialism. In such a context, the introduction of a foreign (often French) population has evident implications for indigenous people, ranging from, on the one hand, intermarriage and the emergence of a creolised population to, on the other, death and the appropriation of land. This impact continues to play itself out in the memorial practices (and often associated amnesia) evident in these postcolonial, post-­ carceral spaces. French Guiana exemplifies the logic of penal colonisation and these postcolonial afterlives. The object of numerous attempts at settlement, the colony began systematically to receive bagnards (convicts) following the 1854 decree relating to forced labour. The conditions in French Guiana were harsh, for convicts, guards, and officials alike, and the mortality rate as a result high. The loss of life was such that, from 1864, metropolitan prisoners were sent instead to the newly launched bagne in New Caledonia in the Pacific, but after the definitive suspension of transportation to Melanesia in 1897 (the penal colony there would close three decades later), French Guiana continued to function as a penal colony for another four decades, receiving civilian transportés, political déportés (including most notably Dreyfus in 1898, but also a number of dissidents from Poulo Condore in French Indochina during the 1930s), as well as relégués or



recidivists from France, Algeria, and elsewhere sentenced for multiple petty crimes.12 The New Caledonian bagne functioned, therefore, for a much shorter period of only just over three decades, but its impact on this overseas territory is still evident, particularly in the durable presence of numerous public buildings in Nouméa constructed using convict labour as well as in the ruins still scattered in various states of abandonment elsewhere across the archipelago. Memorialisation of the institution and acknowledgement of its foundational role are, however, recent, and the initial reaction following suppression of the penal colony was a sustained process of silencing, epitomised by the renaming of the island off Nouméa, the île de Nou, as Nouville, but also reflected in considerations in the 1920s and 1930s of renaming the whole colony. The bagne was progressively limited to the île de Nou, until its formal end in 1931.13 Many buildings were then turned over for civilian use (those in Nouville serve today as a psychiatric hospital and theatre, and also form part of the university in Nouméa); others were demolished or allowed to fall into ruin as part of an effort to create a tabula rasa in the colony. In the 1970s, however, a number of local associations began taking an interest in the history of the penal colony, a process that was then accelerated following the violence associated with the rise of Kanak nationalism in the 1980: it was in this context that the Caldoches, or New Caledonian population of European heritage, began looking for their own roots not in France but in Melanesia itself, echoing earlier shifts in Australia relating to convict ancestry (and even a sense of convict aristocracy). Memories of the penal colony have now become a major political issue in the territory and one that achieved some visibility in the independence referendum of 2018—Macron chose, as the symbolic location for his key speech during a campaign visit to the island, the Théâtre de l’île, former storehouse of the penal colony on the île de Nou, ‘palimpsestic site’, in his terms, ‘in the image of New Caledonia’, and in this context a rallying point for republican unity (Roger 2018). Representations of the bagne in popular culture tend to privilege the mythology associated with celebrity convicts or political prisoners, or to perpetuate the idea that bagnards were predominantly metropolitan and white. There is a particular interest, for instance, in the deportation of Louise Michel to New Caledonia following the Commune of 1871, or Alfred Dreyfus to the Ile du Diable in French Guiana. Albert Londres’s accounts of the Caribbean penal colony have led to an interest in the French anarchist Eugène Dieudonné, author of L’Homme qui s’évada



(1928), now the subject also of a bande dessinée; and more visible is Henri Charrière, known under his nickname ‘Papillon’, whose autobiography was popularised in a memorable 1973 film version, starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman, and directed by Franklin J.  Schaffner, remade by director Michael Noer in 2017. What these widely distributed representations tend to downplay is the presence in the penal colonies of prisoners from other colonies, convicted of civil offences or deported for political reasons (with this distinction often erased), and subject to transcolonial displacement. For the bagne to be explored in all its complexity as a postcolonial lieu de mémoire, it is essential for more attention to be paid to these entanglements and to the extent to which the bagne—almost exclusively so in the case of Poulo Condore in Viet Nam—operated as a site of anti-colonial resistance. Concrete recognition is increasingly apparent in contemporary heritage practices: long left in a state of decay, the camp Crique Anguille in Montsinéry-Tonnegrand (commonly known as the bagne des Annamites), which functioned for Indochinese political prisoners in 1930s French Guiana (with many sent here from Poulo Condore), has recently been restored and made accessible as a site that combines penal heritage with more ecological pursuits—solitary confinement cells and the foundations of toilet blocks remain, although most vestiges have disappeared as a result of the temporary nature of buildings on the site (see Dedebant and Frémaux 2012); perhaps more strikingly, locations associated with Algerian prisoners in New Caledonia have been subject to increased attention, most notably those around the town of Bourail, where there is notably a graveyard known as the cimetière des Arabes (Arab cemetery) in which civil (and some political) prisoners and their descendants are buried.14 Memorial activity relating to ‘Caledoun’ (the Arabic word for New Caledonia) has increased considerably, with a major exhibition at the Institut du Monde Arabe in 2011 (Barbançon and Sand 2013), and local associations have established links with Algeria. A particularly striking example of this is to be found at the cimetière des déportés (Communards’ Cemetery) on the Ile des Pins, a site customarily associated, in parallel with the well-known lieu de mémoire of the mur des fédérés (Communards’ Wall) at Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, with French republican memorialisation of the Paris Commune as a number of Communards are buried there, but where the presence of Algerian déportés from the same time is now also commemorated, reflecting the entanglement of narratives in these postcolonial lieux de mémoire.



The afterlives of these histories have also been explored in Francophone literature, a medium which can be seen to have played a vanguard role in transforming the bagne into a site of postcolonial memory, countering not least the white French convict narrative constructed by texts such as Charrière’s Papillon. The Algerian rebels deported to New Caledonia in the 1870s constitute a particularly striking example, with Mehdi Lallaoui’s Kabyles du Pacifique (Lallaoui 1994) providing a meticulous reconstruction of their itineraries and stories (Lallaoui 1994). The very different experience of Algerian convicts deported to French Guiana has also attracted fictional attention in Mouloud Akkouche’s Cayenne, mon tombeau (Cayenne, my tomb) (2001), the account by a narrator of French-­ Algerian heritage of a transgenerational quest, in the 1980s, to uncover details of his late father’s convict past (Akkouche 2001). Parallel recent developments in contemporary heritage practices relating to the bagnes of the former French empire have been considerable, most notably in French Guiana and New Caledonia, where the sites have become part of a wider focus on penal heritage. In the former, an emphasis on ecotourism and the economic reliance on the Centre Spatial Guyanais (Guyane Spatial Centre, responsible for key penal sites such as the îles du salut) eclipsed for many years the development of any active memorialisation of the penal colony, although the recent inauguration of the impressive ‘centre d’interprétation de l’architecture et du patrimoine’ (interpretation centre of architecture and heritage) in the Camp de la Transportation at Saint-Laurent du Maroni suggests a new development of interest in the area (see Redfield 2000). In the former, where the politics of local identity have more actively foregrounded questions relating to the legacies of the bagne, the development of penal heritage sites is more advanced although often dependent on the input of community organisations. Fort Teremba, for example, near Bourail, has been restored and operates as a tourist destination revealing the co-existence of ethnic groups in New Caledonia; in Nouméa, the association Témoignage d’un Passé are developing plans for a permanent Musée du Bagne in the former bakery of the penal establishments in Nouville; but the sites on the Ile des Pins—with the exception of French republican cimetière des déportés—continue to undergo a steady process of postcolonial ruination.15



Conclusion These two very different examples, illustrative of the diversity of cases of postcolonial ruination that merit further exploration, reveal that the afterlives of empire cannot be understood in terms of stable, linear, homogenising concepts such as ‘legacy’.16 Exploring the deliberate obfuscation of traces of the French penal colony in both French Guiana and New Caledonia, Ann Laura Stoler’s Duress, cited already at the opening of this chapter for its critique of Nora’s Lieux de mémoire, includes an extensive exploration of the institution in the context of wider penal and colonial archipelagos. Noting the ambiguities of the word ‘colony’ embedded in the term ‘penal colony’, Stoler sees these places as part of a ‘protean archive […] constituted by a spread of disparate and related documents of island and landlocked colonies that stretched across the coercive and curative carceral and humanitarian globe’ (Stoler 2016, p. 80). The emphasis in Stoler’s work is on revealing the transnational interconnections that colonial historiography has often ignored. She seeks to highlight entangled histories and think through the ways in which they are associated with sites that may be seen as sedimented palimpsests in their own right. The ‘protean archive’ that Stoler identifies stretches across the world colonised by the French to include a range of locations in France and its former colonies discussed above. In connecting these locations and histories, Stoler foregrounds the processes of postcolonial ruination and the various modes of contemporary curation at the heart of this chapter: ‘At issue is at once the uneven sedimentation of debris and the uneven pace at which people can extricate themselves from the structures and signs by which remains take hold’ (Stoler 2016, p. 346). Central to Stoler’s Duress is an interest in ‘not what is “left” but what people are “left with”’ (Stoler 2016, p. 348). This shifts the attention away from seemingly static colonial legacies or vestiges towards a more dynamic, creative, and affective acknowledgement of what Stoler calls ‘the tangibilities of empire as effective histories of the present’ (Stoler 2016, p. 378). The ruins of the bagne or the jardin d’agronomie tropicale provide a forceful illustration of the vulnerability, impermanence, transition, loss, and decay associated with postcolonial afterlives of empire—and indeed with heritage sites more generally (Desilvey 2017). At the same time, however, they encapsulate Stoler’s idea of persistence, that is, of what those in the postcolonial present are ‘left with’. As such, these sites link directly to the controversies over tensions in the processing of the



persistence of empire with which this chapter opened. To maintain a specific focus on penal colonies, these forms of persistence are particularly apparent in the work of Patrick Chamoiseau who, in a 1994 photo-essay produced with photographer of German-Algerian origin Rodolphe Hammadi, reflected in a French Guianese context on the implications of entangled histories, complex inter- and intra-colonial transportation flows, and more generally the multi-directional memories as well as multi-layered sites to which they give rise (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994).17 Central to Guyane: traces-mémoires du bagne (French Guiana: memory-traces of the penal colony) is the Camp de transportation at Saint-Laurent du Maroni and the île Saint Joseph off Kourou, key sites in the French Guianese penal colony discussed in more detail above. Chamoiseau and Hammadi claim, however, that sites such as this are best approached not through the lens of Nora’s work, as places of colonial memory (which is to say, as part of a formally (re)constructed and acknowledged heritage, a lieu de mémoire), but in relation to what they call in their title postcolonial ‘memory-traces’. Drawing on the work of both Glissant and Derrida, the term recognises the present’s continued links to the past, and the co-­ existence of entangled memories and converging itineraries in the Americas. Although the book is based on a critique of the memorial landscape of the territory, the emphases of its text-and-image-based analysis pre-empt the forms of postcolonial ruination to which Stoler would later allude. In his glosses on Hammadi’s images, Chamoiseau associates the ruins of the residual Guianese penalscape with a form of memorial tangibility that reveals the persistence of the colonial bagne and its constraints in this often-marginalised part of the francophone Caribbean. He also detects in these ruins of empire the existence of marginalised postcolonial formations that provide the potential—in Stoler’s terms both ‘creative and critical’—to narrate other silenced histories and to imagine alternative futures (in this case informed by his own notion of Creoleness). He seeks, in a process of postcolonialisation, to ‘reinvent the notion of the monument, deconstruct the notion of heritage’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994, p. 15). Writing complements an active attention to the eroded materiality of postcolonial spaces: ‘Beneath written colonial history it is necessary to find traces of the stories. Beneath the lofty memory of forts and buildings, to the unusual places where the decisive stages of these communities took shape’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994, p. 15). Chamoiseau refers to a body of representations of the bagne, but simultaneously seeks to move



away from and beyond them in his effort to ‘perceive what these memory-­ traces whisper to us’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994, pp. 23–24). The ruins of empire are therefore presented by Chamoiseau and Hammadi not as a lieu de mémoire, but as a lieu d’oubli. The photographs of ruination that the essayist takes as the trigger for his reflections do not cater to any desire for ‘ruin porn’ (Lyons 2018), but are cast instead in the context of a digressively disruptive mode of engagement: ‘And here I am in these memory-traces of the Guianese bagne, not visiting but wandering, not strolling but rambling’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994, p. 43). In a critically postcolonial approach, Chamoiseau acknowledges that: ‘the memory-traces of the bagne are broken, diffused, scattered’, but he nevertheless performs in his text a commitment to voicing ‘dominated stories, erased memories’ (Chamoiseau and Hammadi 1994, pp. 21, 16). Guyane: traces-mémoires du bagne is rooted in a rejection of many contemporary representations of sites associated with empire, as well as of the heritage practices that have often mirrored these. Key to Chamoiseau’s refutation is a recognition that these interventions into the colonial past, though situated firmly in a postcolonial moment, reflect the persistence of colonial assumptions and constraints. His own poetic intervention relating to French Guiana can be linked to a similar engagement in France itself with the ruins of the jardin d’agronomie tropicale, both in the fiction of Thomas Reverdy and Sylvain Venayre or in the artwork of Thu-Van Tran. From the ruins of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century colonies emerge alternative and often more unsettling narratives underpinned by new critical and poetic approaches.

Notes 1. For a critique of the issue, see ‘Vive la nostalgie coloniale!’ (2018). 2. The term was popularised by Lefeuvre (2006), and also explored in other prominent essays including Bruckner (2006). Sarkozy’s presidency (2007–2012) was characterised by growing hostility to populations of migrant origin, exemplified by his attempt to establish a Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity, and Co-Development; such legislative and institutional measures were accompanied by a reassertion of historical rhetoric that saw colonial expansion as a form of ‘civilizing mission’, with the result that those critical of the imperial past and its contemporary manifestations were increasingly accused of being unnecessarily ‘repentant’.



3. See Nora (1984–1992). The harkis were indigenous Muslim Algerians who served as auxiliaries in the French Army during the Algerian War of Independence from 1954 to 1962; pieds noirs were settlers of European origin who lived in Algeria under French rule, many of whom who returned to Europe after Algeria gained independence. 4. Anne Donadey evoked, for instance, the ‘Algeria syndrome’ (Donadey 1996). 5. On Sarkozy’s speech, see Ba Konaré (2008), Chrétien (2008), and Gassama (2008). A robust response to the establishment of this ministry is provided in Glissant and Chamoiseau (2007). 6. Les Lieux de mémoire has appeared in numerous translations, including a selection of essays published in English, Realms of memory: The construction of the French past edited by Pierre Nora and Lawrence Kritzman and translated by Arthur Goldhammer for Columbia University Press, and Rethinking France: Les Lieux de mémoire edited again by Nora himself with the translation overseen by David P. Jordan for Chicago University Press. 7. A similar argument is made by Shepard (2006). 8. On forgetting Indochina, see Edwards and Jennings (2019). 9. For details of Thu-Van Tran’s work, see 10. On the history of the French penal colonies, see Toth (2006). 11. For an exemplary illustration of such an approach, see Patterson (2018). 12. On the functioning of the penal colonies in French Guiana and New Caledonia respectively, see Sanchez (2013) and Barbançon (2003). 13. On the closure of the penal colony in New Caledonia and its afterlives, see Petit-Quencez (2016). 14. On the role of cemeteries at penal heritage sites, see Forsdick (2008). 15. On penal heritage in New Caledonia, see Petit-Quencez (2016). 16. The concluding section of the chapter draws in part on my article on the representation of the bagne in Francophone postcolonial literature (Forsdick 2018) and in particular on its discussion of the work of Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi. 17. For more sustained studies of the work from the perspective of memory and trauma studies, see Silverman (2010) and Stafford (2008).

References Achille, E, Forsdick, C & Moudileno, L (eds.) 2020, Postcolonial realms of memory: Sites and symbols in modern France, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool. Ageron, C-R 1997 [1984], ‘L’Exposition coloniale de 1931’, in Nora, P (ed.), Les Lieux de mémoire, 3 vols., Gallimard/Quarto, Paris, pp. 493–515. Akkouche, M 2001, Cayenne, Mon tombeau, Flammarion, Paris.



Aldrich, R 1999, ‘Vestiges of the colonial empire: The Jardin Colonial in Paris’, in Aldrich, R & Lyons, M (eds.), The sphinx in the tuileries and other essays in modern French history, Department of Economic History, University of Sydney, Sydney, pp. 194–204. Aldrich, R 2005, Vestiges of the colonial empire in France: Monuments, museums and colonial memories, Palgrave Macmillan, Houndsmill. Anderson, P 2005, La Pensée tiède: Un regard critique sur la culture française, Gallimard, Paris. Anderson, C (ed.) 2018, A global history of convicts and penal colonies, Bloomsbury, London. Arquez-Roth, A 2014, ‘La Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration: A central venue and national network—An ongoing challenge’, in Innocenti, P (ed.), Migrating heritage experiences of cultural networks and cultural dialogue in Europe, Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 109–24. Ba Konaré, A (ed.) 2008, Petit précis de remise à niveau sur l’histoire africaine à l’usage du président Sarkozy, La Découverte, Paris. Barbançon, L-J 2003, L’Archipel des forçats: Histoire du bagne de Nouvelle Calédonie, 1863–1931, Presses universitaires du Septentrion, Lille. Barbançon, L-J & Sand, C 2013, Caledoun: Histoire des Arabes et Berbères de Nouvelle-Calédonie, Association des Arabes et Amis de Nouvelle-­ Calédonie, Bourail. Bruckner, P 2006, La Tyrannie de la pénitence, Grasset, Paris. Cento Bull, A & Hansen, HL 2015, ‘On agonistic memory’, Memory Studies, vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 390–404. Chamoiseau, P & Hammadi, R 1994, Guyane: Traces-mémoires du bagne, Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites, Paris. Chrétien, J-P (ed.) 2008, L’Afrique de Sarkozy: Un déni de l’histoire, Karthala, Paris. Crowley, P 2020, ‘Musée National de l’Histoire de l’Immigration’, in Achille, E, Forsdick, C & Moudileno, L (eds.), Postcolonial realms of memory: Sites and symbols in modern France, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, pp. 204–13. Damas, L-G 2003 [1938], Retour de Guyane: Suivi de misère noire: et autres écrits journalistiques, J.-M. Place, Paris. Dedebant, C & Frémaux, C 2012, Le Bagne des Annamites, Montsinéry-­ Tonnégrande, Service de l’Inventaire général du patrimoine culturel de la Région Guyane, Cayenne. Desilvey, C 2017, Curated decay: Heritage beyond saving, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press. Donadey, A 1996, ‘“Une certaine idée de la France”: The Algeria syndrome and struggles over “French” identity’, in Ungar, S & Conley, C (eds.) Identity papers: Contested nationhood in twentieth-century France, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 215–32.



Dorling, D & Tomlinson, S 2019, Brexit and the end of empire, Biteback Publishing, London. Edwards, MK & Jennings, E 2019, ‘An Indochinese Vichy syndrome? Remembering and forgetting world war II Indochina’, French Politics, Culture and Society, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 27–55. Forsdick, C 2009, ‘Colonialism, postcolonialism and the cultures of commemoration’, in Forsdick, C & Murphy, D (eds.), Postcolonial thought in the French-­ speaking world, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool, pp. 271–84. Forsdick, C 2008, ‘The carceral archipelago of the dead: On the singularity of hang Duong cemetery’, in S Fuggle (ed.), A poetics of space: Images of con Dao, London, Pavement Books, pp. 39–46. Forsdick, C 2018, ‘Postcolonializing the bagne’, French Studies, vol. 72, no. 2, pp. 237–55. Garrigus, JD 2000, ‘White Jacobins/black Jacobins: Bringing the Haitian and French revolutions together in the classroom’, French Historical Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 259–75. Gassama, M (ed.) 2008, L’Afrique répond à Sarkozy: Contre le discours de Dakar, Philippe Rey, Paris. Glissant, E & Chamoiseau, P 2007, Quand les murs tombent, Éditions Galaade, Paris. Hayward, P & Tran, GTH 2014, ‘At the edge: Heritage and tourism development in Vietnam’s con Dao archipelago’, Journal of Marine and Island Cultures, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 113–24. Jennings, E 2003, ‘Remembering “other” losses: The Temple du souvenir indochinois of Nogentsur-Marne’, History and Memory, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 5–48. Kmec, S, Majerus, B, Margue, M & Peporte, P (eds.) 2009, Dépasser le cadre national des ‘Lieux de mémoire’. Innovations méthodologiques, approches comparatives, lectures transnationales, P.I.E, Peter Lang, Brussels. ‘La vraie histoire des colonies’, Valeurs actuelles, special issue 14, May 2018. Lallaoui, M 1994, Kabyles du Pacifique, Au nom de la mémoire, Bezons. Lefeuvre, D 2006, Pour en finir avec la repentance coloniale, Flammarion, Paris. Liauzu C 2005, ‘Les historiens saisis par les guerres de mémoires coloniales’, Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine vol. 5, pp. 99–109. Löytömäki, S 2018, ‘French memory laws and the ambivalence about the meaning of colonialism’, in Bevernage, B & Wouters, N (eds.), The Palgrave handbook of state-sponsored history after 1945, Palgrave, London, pp. 87–100. Lyons, S (ed.) 2018, Ruin porn and the obsession with decay, Palgrave Macmillan, London. Mann, G 2005, ‘Locating colonial histories: Between France and West Africa’, American Historical Review, vol. 110, no. 2, pp. 409–34. Marsh, K & Frith, N (eds.) 2010, France’s lost empires: Fragmentation, nostalgia, and la fracture coloniale, Lexington Books, Lanham. Melchior, H 2017, ‘Moi, petit-fils de pieds-noirs…’, Le Monde, 23 February.



Monjaret, A & Roustan, M 2017, ‘A palace as legacy: The former French colonial museum—Perspectives from the inside’, Journal of Material Culture, vol. 22, no. 2 pp. 216–36. Nora, P (ed.) 1984–1992, Les Lieux de mémoire, Gallimard, Paris. Patterson, L 2018, ‘Ethnoscapes of exile: Political prisoners from Indochina in a colonial Asian world’, International Review of Social History, vol. 63, special issue S26 (Transportation, deportation and exile: Perspectives from the colonies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries), pp. 89–107. Petit-Quencez, B 2016, ‘L’histoire du patrimoine lié au bagne en Nouvelle Calédonie, du non-dit à l’affirmation identitaire’, Criminocorpus blog, 24 June, viewed 19 May 2019, Pinon, D. 2005, ‘Le Jardin colonial, entre essor et oubli’, in Levêque, I, Pinon, D & Griffon, M (eds.), Le Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale: de l’agriculture coloniale au développement durable, Actes Sud, Arles, pp. 127–48. Redfield, P. 2000, Space in the tropics: From convicts to rockets in French Guiana, University of California Press, Berkeley. Reverdy, T & Venayre, S 2017. Jardin des colonies, Flammarion, Paris. Roger, R 2018, ‘En Nouvelle-Calédonie, le “destin commun” apparaît comme une bien lointaine chimère’, Le Monde, 5 May. Rothberg, M. 2009, Multidirectional memory: Remembering the holocaust in the age of decolonization, Stanford University Press, Stanford. Rothberg, M. 2018 [2009] Mémoire multidirectionnelle: Repenser l’Holocauste à l’aune de la décolonisation, Jurgenson, L (trans.), Petra, Paris. Sanchez, J-L 2013, A perpétuité. Relégués au bagne de Guyane, Vendémiaire, Paris. Shepard, T 2006, The invention of decolonization: The Algerian war and the remaking of France, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, pp. 195–204. Sherman, DJ 2016, ‘The perils of patrimoine: Art, history, and narrative in the immigration history museum, Paris’, Oxford Art Journal, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 457–80. Silverman, M 2010, ‘Memory traces: Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi’s Guyane: traces-mémoires du bagne’, Yale French Studies, vols. 118/19, pp. 225–38. Stafford, A. 2008, ‘Patrick Chamoiseau and Rodolphe Hammadi in the penal colony: Photo-text and memory-traces’, Postcolonial Studies, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 27–38. Stoler, AL. 2016, Duress: Imperial durabilities in our times, Duke University Press, Durham. Stora B. 2007, La Guerre des mémoires: la France face à son passé colonial (entretiens avec Thierry Leclère), Éditions de l’Aube, La Tour d’Aigues.



Toth, SA. 2006, Beyond Papillon: The French overseas penal colonies, 1854–1952, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. ‘Vive la nostalgie coloniale! La réponse de Pascal Blanchard à Valeurs actuelles’, Le Nouveau Magazine littéraire, 16 April 2018,


‘The Most Intimate Familiarity and the Most Extreme Existential Alienation’: Ilse Aichinger’s Memories of Nazi-Era Vienna Geoff Wilkes

Introduction Ilse Aichinger was one of the most celebrated German-language authors after the Second World War, receiving critical acclaim as well as numerous awards, most notably the Prize of the 47 Group (an association of German-­ language writers) in 1952 and the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1995. In particular, Aichinger was one of the first post-war German-language authors to write from direct experience about Nazi anti-Semitism, starting with her novel The Greater Hope (Die gröβere Hoffnung) in 1948. Ilse Aichinger’s connection with Vienna originated in her birth there in 1921. Although the family moved to the provincial city of Linz shortly afterwards, Ilse, her twin sister Helga, and their mother Berta returned to Vienna in 1927 following Berta’s divorce, and lived with Berta’s mother Gisela. After the Nazis took over Austria in 1938, Ilse’s classification under

G. Wilkes (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




their anti-Semitic policies as a Mischling ersten Grades—what she called ‘half-Jewish’ (2003, p. 73)1—saved her and Berta from death, though not from civil conscription, persecution, and privation. Ilse’s sister Helga and Berta’s sister Klara were able to emigrate to England before the war, and survived, but Gisela and her children Erna and Felix were deported in 1942 and were numbered among the more than 65,000 Viennese Jews who were victims of the Holocaust (Uhl 2016, p. 242). Ilse Aichinger left Vienna in 1950, returned in 1988, and remained until her death in 2016. In an interview given in 1990, she says that Vienna is now the only place where she feels able to write: [Interviewer:] Can you write everywhere? Does where you are at a particular time make no difference to you? [Aichinger:] No. It suddenly became quite clear to me that I need Vienna. As they say: When you get older, you’re drawn back. Now I think I need Vienna very much. (Fässler 2011a, p. 60)

Six years later, Aichinger tells another interviewer that it is her past in Vienna, for both good and ill, which has brought her back to the city: I can only live in Vienna. I’d like to die in Vienna too. […] It’s the city I was born in. All the terrible things, but also all the wonderful things, which I’ve experienced are connected with this city. The Austrian author Ruth Klüger once wrote a fabulous sentence: ‘Vienna is the city I didn’t succeed in escaping from’. (Fässler 2011a, p. 107)

The ambivalence of Aichinger’s feelings about Vienna is aptly summarised by Simone Fässler as a combination of ‘the most intimate familiarity [and] the most extreme existential alienation’ (2001, p. 73). In this chapter, I explore how Aichinger remembers the Vienna of 1927–1950, and particularly the Nazi-controlled Vienna of 1938–45, not only in the interviews she gave after her return, which are part of the volume Nothing At All Need Remain: Interviews 1952–2005 (Es muss gar nichts bleiben: Interviews 1952–2005), but also in two volumes which she published in 2001 and 2005, respectively, namely Film and Fate: Camera Flashes Illuminating A Life (Film und Verhängnis: Blitzlichter auf ein Leben) and Improbable Journeys (Unglaubwürdige Reisen). These latter works are collections of short pieces, many of which are reprinted from other publications, especially the Vienna newspaper The Standard (Der



Standard), and as the pieces are somewhat eclectic in genre and topic— including autobiographical and biographical essays, analyses of films and still photographs, commentaries on historical and current events, and transcripts of a speech and an interview—I concentrate on texts in which Aichinger discusses memory generally and her recollections of Vienna specifically. This chapter begins by outlining Aichinger’s scepticism about the legitimacy of public memory of Nazi genocide and other catastrophes, and about the robustness of remembering as an individual mental process. I then turn to Aichinger’s descriptions of how, this scepticism notwithstanding, numerous locations in Vienna prompt powerful memories of trauma (though sometimes also of consolation, solidarity, and resistance), and to her sense that the Nazi past which she recalls remains present in, and continuous with, contemporary Austria. I conclude by discussing the significance which Aichinger accords to the cinema, including her idea that watching films is the most appropriate way for her to remember and honour ‘those who disappeared’ (2003, p. 71).

Collective and Individual Memory Aichinger repeatedly criticises the terminology, popular representations, memorials, and state-sponsored mourning associated with the Holocaust and other traumatic events. Perhaps most notably, she rejects the term ‘Holocaust’ itself (which is used in German as well as in English), dismissing it in her acceptance speech for the Grand Austrian State Prize as ‘an absurd designation which obscures and falsifies instead of defining’ (2003, p.  23). Aichinger reiterates and clarifies her objection to the word ‘Holocaust’ when an interviewer in 2001 suggests that the television miniseries of that name is concerned with ‘historical memory’, and she retorts that historical memory ‘is made up of individual memories, after all. All the people who died have their own memory. I don’t want the word Holocaust either. It obscures’ (Fässler 2011a, p. 183). Aichinger’s suspicion of the terms used to characterise Nazi-era Austria extends to the word ‘victim’ (Opfer), which in an interview from 1996 she says has been appropriated by individuals who tolerated anti-Semitic persecution: I’d like to remove the word ‘victim’ from general usage, not only as it applies to me. Many Austrians, many Viennese, felt that they themselves were victims of obscure historical processes. They didn’t understand that a lot of



things had happened beforehand which they witnessed, and which in part they caused. (Fässler 2011a, p. 90)

In her acceptance speech for the Grand Austrian State Prize, Aichinger argues that not only individuals but also the post-war Austrian and German states avoid historical responsibility for their genocidal pasts, deprecating former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s oft-quoted distinction between the generation of the perpetrators and those granted ‘the gift of being born afterwards’ (2003, p. 23). In fact, Aichinger thought about emphasising her viewpoint by declining the government-sponsored Prize (Berbig 2011, pp. 56–57), but ultimately decided to accept it as a kind of symbolic restitution for those who had suffered, as she explains in an interview in 1996: After the war my mother was given 10,000 shillings for the loss of her apartment and her [medical] practice—to say nothing of her relatives, who all died. That’s disgraceful. Helmer, who was Interior Minister at the time, once commented on the issue of compensation: ‘I’m in favour of drawing things out’. I accepted the Prize on behalf of the people for whom things were drawn out rather too long. I didn’t accept the money as a prize for anything I’d achieved, but as something those people are entitled to. (Fässler 2011a, p. 105)

She further arranged for the ceremony conferring the Prize to include readings from the letters of Sophie and Hans Scholl, members of the anti-­ Nazi resistance group ‘The White Rose’ who were executed in 1943 (Berbig 2011, pp. 55–56). Aichinger’s reservations about the post-war Austrian republic’s attitude to its Nazi history are paralleled by her comments on the formal memorials of the Nazi era. In a reminiscence entitled ‘The Quay, 1944’, which in part describes where the headquarters of the Vienna Gestapo once stood, she refuses to accept that the ‘small stone, a kind of gravestone, [which] memorialises the victims’ there signifies any kind of genuine coming to terms with the past, because ‘[i]t’s all become history now, a story, you might also say’ (2003, p. 53). Similarly, Aichinger notes in a piece called ‘Museum Landscapes for Murders’ that a district in Vienna now known as the ‘Museum Quarter’ previously contained the temporary housing which the Nazis established for the people who were subsequently deported on the ‘death transports’ (2007, p.  111). She then recalls a former



schoolmate who was taken on one of those transports and suggests that the contemporary museums are inadequate to her memory: ‘Perhaps it might be worth making the trip to the new Museum Quarter after all, in order to look for her. But she hasn’t needed quarters since as long ago as 1942’ (2007, p.  112). And in ‘Official Mourning and Cable Railway Tragedy’, in which Aichinger responds to a catastrophic accident in the Austrian mountains in November 2000, she disdainfully compares the proposed official commemorations to chocolates which are produced for sale at Christmas: [U]nanimity is now prescribed; on all sides, people are assiduously droning the words ‘official mourning’! But: Each of the victims died alone. […] Identifying with absurd conditions and sufferings presupposes solitude: In contrast, the official mourning proclaimed on the occasion of 160 skiing tourists’ agonising deaths is like the Father Christmas which is wrapped in silver paper, and hollow inside: more commercial activity. (2003, p. 168)

While Aichinger makes no explicit link anywhere in this piece to ‘official mourning’ about the years from 1938 to 1945, she does reinforce her view of the Austrian state’s unwillingness or inability to properly commemorate mass tragedy. Incidentally, she also develops the idea that historical memory ‘is made up of individual memories’ not only by emphasising that ‘[e]ach of the victims died alone’, but also by suggesting that appropriate engagement with extraordinary trauma ‘presupposes solitude’. Aichinger’s scepticism about collective memory and public memorialisation is complemented by her conception of an individual’s remembering as a fluid, contingent, fleeting, and contestable process. This probably finds its clearest expression in Aichinger’s essay on Jean-Luc Godard’s film Histoire(s) du cinéma, in which she praises Godard’s collage-like technique for taking ‘the opportunity to let thoughts submerge, and resurface again in ever-new images. That enables your own memories to do as his do, to come again and to go again’ (2003, p. 105). When her thoughts on Histoire(s) du cinéma prompt memories of conversation with a friend and her grandmother when Aichinger was a primary-school child, she emphasises how one memory follows unbidden upon another: While I’m writing that down, I remember that grandmother’s hat and scarf, I remember the quiet Third District [of Vienna]. And I remember the little



girl’s voice […]. She died when she was twenty. And the child she had brought into the world died with her. (2003, p. 106)

Aichinger is particularly attached to the idea that an individual’s memory has a fugitive quality: she characterises it as a ‘zephyr’ (2003, p. 107) and compares remembering to the game of flicking stones ‘[on]to the water so that they’ll jump across it’ and then vanish (2003, p. 70). She says twice in almost the same words that ‘Memory shatters easily when you try to master it’ (2003, p.  69) and that ‘Memory shatters easily when you try to organise it’ (2003, p. 103), and also quotes verbatim from an earlier book in which she wrote that: ‘Memory doesn’t comprehend itself to the end’ (2003, p. 105, see 1987, p. 14). This last comment prompts the idea that the moment when memory seems to be complete is the moment when it is least reliable: ‘As soon as [memory] comprehends itself, it’s in danger of succumbing to itself, its courses, datings, erroneous conclusions: its chronology’ (2003, p. 70). It is worth noting here—if more for aesthetic than for analytical reasons—that Aichinger’s views about the ephemerality of individual memory are reflected in the conditions under which some of the pieces discussed in this chapter were produced, printed and reprinted. As Fässler points out in her foreword to Improbable Journeys, Aichinger often wrote while sitting in Vienna’s historic Café Demel, composing by hand, and using whatever piece of paper was available, on which she might add notes about the food and drink she had consumed or her appointments for later in the day (Fässler 2007, pp. 7–8). Much of what Aichinger produced in this way was intended for the relatively impermanent medium of the Vienna daily The Standard, but even when Fässler and Franz Hammerbacher collected some pieces for more lasting publication in Improbable Journeys (Fässler 2011b, p.  264), they included photographs of Aichinger’s original and rather scrappy-looking manuscripts, written on—among other things— advertising postcards, a used envelope, a crossword-puzzle magazine, a paper carrier bag, a menu and an entry form for a cooking competition (Aichinger 2007, pp. 30, 56, 58, 76, 94 & 174).

Vienna and Memory Aichinger’s notions about the contingency of personal memories do not prevent her writing powerfully about her own experiences in Nazi-era Vienna. Unsurprisingly, most of those writings are profoundly negative,



and many also emphasise a negativity which persists to the present day. ‘The Quay, 1944’ is a good example of this; notwithstanding the clear invocation of the past in the title, the piece is largely concerned with the continuing effect of what Aichinger experienced in the 1940s. In the first paragraph, she mentions two long-established public buildings of cultural and historical significance on Vienna’s kilometre-long Franz Joseph Quay, the Urania Centre and the Rossauer Barracks, before explaining that to her the Quay ‘seems to consist solely of the square occupied by the Vienna Gestapo’s building and its dependencies’ (2003, p. 53), which is Morzin Square. This last location has an obvious historical importance, but it is also significant to Aichinger personally because after she and Berta were forced out of Gisela’s apartment in 1938, they spent several years in lodgings allocated to them next to Morzin Square. The next paragraph shifts the focus to the ‘ordinary’ Viennese during those years, who Aichinger says were so untroubled by the deportations of supposed enemies of the state that ‘eventually the Gestapo hardly bothered to wait for the coming of darkness’ to remove them: They’re going where they belong, they’ll do some work at last. That’s what I heard as the uncovered trucks, actually cattle trucks, drove across the Sweden Bridge with those who were destined for deportation. (2003, p. 53)

Later paragraphs describe persecutions and privations which Aichinger and her mother experienced, but I would suggest that her key point is the shadow which Vienna’s Nazi past still throws over the city. ‘The Quay, 1944’ begins with the words: ‘Pure desolation fills the air there. Darkness seems only temporarily held at bay’ (2003, p. 53), and the final paragraph reveals that Aichinger ‘avoid[s] this neighbourhood’ (2003, p.  55), to this day. Whereas ‘The Quay, 1944’ has a deliberate quality—opening with the summary comment about ‘[p]ure desolation’, then nominating the two buildings which mark the Quay’s extremities before proceeding to Aichinger’s recollections of the former Gestapo headquarters—another piece called ‘Semolina-Dumpling Soup from Morzin Square’ describes how memories of Nazi-era Vienna come to Aichinger unbidden. She begins by recounting how, after a late evening at the cinema, she and her friends felt like some semolina-dumpling soup. Aichinger then explains that, given the late hour, the soup was only available at petrol stations, ‘and the closest petrol station was the one at Morzin Square, near the



former headquarters of the Vienna Gestapo’ (2007, p. 159). This prompts further references to how ‘[w]e lived next to Morzin Square for six full years’, and ‘to those who were taken to the Vienna Gestapo’ (2007, p. 159), but here again Aichinger is particularly concerned to emphasise the abiding emotional impact of the Gestapo state, the way it ‘sticks in the mind’ so that she still ‘see[s] almost too clearly’ (2007, p. 160), what she has suffered and lost. As these two texts indicate, the former Gestapo headquarters is one of the key sites of memory in Vienna for Aichinger. This is so much the case that her continuing distaste for the area expresses itself in merely incidental comments, for example when she writes about going to a specialist bookseller called ‘Satyr Film World’ and remarks purely in passing that the shop is situated ‘next to the still-cheerless Marc-Aurel-Straβe’ (2003, p. 175), which is a street leading to Morzin Square. Another key site is the Sweden Bridge, which Aichinger mentions not only in ‘The Quay, 1944’ (as described above), but also on several other occasions both in Film and Fate and Improbable Journeys, and in interviews. As she explains in her acceptance speech for the Grand Austrian State Prize, it was at the Sweden Bridge that Aichinger saw her own mother Berta’s mother and siblings for the last time, when they were deported on a ‘windy day in May’ in 1942: ‘[the day] ended with the transfer to a death camp. The hope remains that this was Minsk, or the greater hope that they were shot on the journey’ (2003, p.  20).2 Yet another site with negative and continuing connotations is the accountant’s office in Elisabethstraβe to which Aichinger was assigned to work in 1942, and because of which she still avoids that neighbourhood too, as it ‘radiate[s] an almost unbearable kind of utility and profit even now, a penetrable impenetrability which only starts to dissipate many hours later and some streets further away’ (2003, pp. 46–47). Aichinger’s distrust of the ways in which Austria remembers its fascist past and her undiminished revulsion against some locations which she associates with Nazi-era Vienna are occasionally complemented by suggestions that anti-Semitism is inherent in Austrian culture. I would argue that ‘Semolina-Dumpling Soup from Morzin Square’ makes such a suggestion in its startling juxtaposition of the regional culinary specialty (Grieβnockerlsuppe in the original German text) with Nazism, which implies that both are equally and typically Austrian. In ‘The Quay, 1944’ Aichinger intimates her fear of contemporary anti-Semitism when she elaborates on her comment that the Gestapo victims’ fate is now only ‘a story, you might […] say’: ‘Stories can be told again. And not only told



again’ (2003, p. 53; emphasis added)—that is, they can also be enacted again. And in a piece first published in June 2000 commemorating the death of the author Ernst Jandl, Aichinger links historical fascism and present-day xenophobia in Austria quite explicitly, presumably at least partly in response to the nationalistic Freedom Party of Austria’s entry into a federal coalition government a few months before. Aichinger first recalls how in 1938 the chairs in Vienna’s Volksgarten park: were inscribed in white with “For Aryans Only”. This inscription still flashed out into the dark after the Volksgarten had closed. For those who weren’t allowed to enter anymore anyway, the nights were becoming darker. (2003, p. 113)

She then adds: ‘These days the words on the chairs would be “Foreigners Out”’ (2003, p. 113). Some of the sites in Vienna which Aichinger recalls have more positive connotations. The most important is the Jewish section of the Central Cemetery, which is entered by Gate 4, and is where Aichinger’s maternal grandfather is buried. As she explains in an essay prompted by Orson Welles’ 1949 film The Third Man (which is set in Vienna shortly after the Second World War and features the Central Cemetery prominently): ‘During the war, we sought out Gate 4 as often as possible. Park benches and the benches on the ring-road were “for Aryans only”’ (2003, p. 200). In this essay, Gate 4 was not only a place of refuge, but also of minor resistance against the Nazis’ anti-Semitic regulations on the occasion when: A Jewish goat-herd drove some—presumably also Jewish—goats past the cemetery. He was carrying his blue jacket over his shoulder, with the Jews’ star covered. ‘I can’t pin it on my skin’, he said quite cheerfully, ‘the goats don’t wear one either’. (2003, p. 200)3

Another place of refuge was the Swedish Mission at No. 16 Seegasse, where Aichinger and other young people came together ‘before sleep and before night’ under the guidance of a charismatic deaconess they called Lillemor (‘Little Mother’), finding comfort in her talk of ‘their Protestant Seegasse God, his protection and his sure guidance, granted to everyone in their own way’ (2007, p. 138). And another place of rebellion was the spot at one end of the Reich Bridge where the so-called Schlurfs gathered, the nonconformist youths who exhibited their disdain for the Nazi regime by



listening to swing jazz, and who expressed sympathy when they met racial ‘“outlaws”’ (2007, p. 54), such as Aichinger. The site in Vienna with perhaps the most positive connotations is the small apartment in the suburb of Hernals where a friend called Melly Welzl gave shelter to Aichinger and her mother immediately after the war, and where ‘in the early mornings, while Melly […] and her husband were still asleep on the floor—because they had given up their bed to us—I sat at her little white kitchen table and started writing The Greater Hope’ (2007, p. 57). Unsurprisingly, each of the memories just described has an admixture of pessimism or defeat. After recalling the Central Cemetery of her Nazi-­ era experience and of Orson Welles’ post-war film, Aichinger suggests that the present-day mourners who adjourn to the pub contemplate ‘the disappointment with the persistent mediocrity of political institutions which was revealed to us after the war’ (2003, p. 202). At the end of her piece on the Swedish Mission in Seegasse, Aichinger chooses three of Vienna’s bridges to exemplify what remained after the Mission closed down in 1941—‘Only the bridges stayed, for the moment, where they were: the Sweden Bridge, St Mary’s Bridge, the Peace Bridge’ (2007, p.  139)— evoking firstly the deportations which continued unabated, secondly the inability or unwillingness of Austria’s Christian churches to do much about them, and thirdly and ironically the violence of the Nazi regime. Aichinger refers to the ‘Schlurfs’ in a piece devoted partly to the ‘Viennabikes’—the bicycles which can be rented by tourists and city commuters in Vienna, but which are frequently destroyed or thrown into the Danube—drawing a fairly tenuous, but entirely contemptuous, contrast between the dreams which were engendered by the rebelliousness and solidarity of the ‘Schlurfs’ (dreams which ‘weren’t demolished, and couldn’t be taken from you’) and the destruction of ‘today’s poor Viennabikes’ (2007, p. 54), at the hands of the Viennese, who are ‘born vandals’ (2007, p. 53). Even the piece about the apartment in Hernals, which speaks of the ‘greater hope’ of those who survived the Nazi regime, devotes as much attention to someone who did not survive the anti-­ Semitism of the Soviet regime: the author Isaac Babel, ‘who was a Jew and—to name another category for those whom Stalin condemned to death—“a Bohemian” [and] was arrested in Odessa, and on 27 January 1940 he was shot’ (2007, p. 55). Although Aichinger’s memories of the years 1927 to 1950 sometimes extend beyond Vienna—most notably to London, which she and her mother visited for the first time for a few months in 1947–1948—these



memories have the same dark undercurrents as her recollections of the Seegasse Mission or of Hernals. Aichinger’s pleasure in her memories of London is particularly apparent in the stream of images in passages such as the following, from a piece entitled ‘In Praise of England’: And I still imagine myself back in Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, in Westbourne Court near Paddington Station, see the smooth, wet tracks six storeys below, beneath the apartment my sister lived in after the war, remember the Edgware Road, and later Hornton Street, the Lyon’s Corner Houses and the sea fog which often seeped in between all the cracks. I remember the front gardens with the hydrangeas and tulips, often quite late in the year. (2007, p. 72)

And the purpose of this visit was to reunite with Helga and Klara, and also with the broader Jewish community of pre-Nazi Vienna represented by ‘Finchley Road, which some people called “Finchleystrasse” even back then, because so many emigrants already lived there’, and by individuals such as author and later Nobel laureate Elias Canetti (2003, p. 135). But the reunion of those who survived necessarily recalls the absence of those who did not. In the sentence immediately following the long quotation from ‘In Praise of England’ above, Aichinger also remembers: the many dark and mid-grey clothes which our mother’s elder sister had stored for our grandmother on a clothesline in her room at a pension. Our grandmother never came back, and ‘Auntie’ never asked about her again either. (2007, p. 72)

Thus London, with the clothes stored by Klara, is linked to Minsk, ‘the Belarusian capital’ (2007, p.  72), where her mother and siblings were murdered, much as Helga’s London-born daughter evokes the grim past as well as the brighter future, given that she came into the world ‘in 1942, the year in which our relatives were deported from Vienna’ (2003, p. 135).

The Cinema and Memory Although Aichinger mentions various sites (such as Morzin Square and the Sweden Bridge) repeatedly in her recollections of Nazi-era Vienna, her most prominent theme by far is the cinema, in the sense of specific places where films are shown, specific films, and also the particular experience of



watching films. Indeed, Fässler argues with reference to some earlier texts that cinemas have now ‘replace[d] […] churches as points of orientation and places of destination’ in Aichinger’s ‘topography of Vienna’ (2011b, p. 217). Aichinger first developed her passion for films as a child living in Gisela’s apartment at No. 1 Hohlweggasse, where the nearby Pheasant Cinema originated ‘a fever […] which hasn’t abated to this day’ (2003, p. 69). She continued to attend the cinema during the Nazi rule in Austria and maintained her interest for the rest of her life, explaining to one interviewer in 2003 that ‘I go to the movies up to four times a day’ (2007, p. 185), and to another in 2001 that she is a regular at the Burg Cinema’s weekend screenings of The Third Man, partly because Helga has a walk-on role in that film: ‘So I see her again […] every Sunday’ (Fässler 2011a, p. 151).4 Aichinger’s writings about the cinema in The Standard encompass directors and actors as diverse as Fritz Lang, Leni Riefenstahl, Jean-­ Luc Godard, Louis Malle, Luchino Visconti, the B-movie director William Castle, Gillian Anderson, Humphrey Bogart, Eddie Constantine, and Laurel and Hardy. She even comments on the characteristics of particular cinemas, for example on what she sees as the soullessness of modern multiplexes (2003, p.  175), the cliquishness of the elderly clientele at the Bellaria Cinema (2003, pp. 17 & 75), and the extraordinary discomfort of the seats at Vienna’s Film Museum (2003, pp. 108, 125, 160 & 197). Aichinger’s memories of cinema-going in Vienna between 1927 and 1950 include some positive experiences. The first piece in Film and Fate describes the daily routine before 1938 of her movie-loving aunt Erna, who would study ‘today’s, tomorrow’s and the day after’s program’ (2003, p.  11), every afternoon, and generally opted for the Pheasant Cinema, which was so draughty that ‘you could catch your death there’ (2003, p. 13), but which also offered the prospect of matinée idol ‘Iván Petrovich, wearing uniforms which were a bit too tight, play[ing] Russian or White Russian officers’ (2003, p. 12). The cinema was no less attractive to Aichinger herself, for example when she and Helga saw a film at the Scala Cinema called The Governor, which was set in Eastern Europe: ‘[W]e liked the eastern landscape, the horses too. And the film sky up above’ (2003, p. 75). Inevitably, however, Aichinger’s recollections of the cinema cannot be divorced from her memories of Nazism. This is partly because she associates going to films with significant events in her life between 1938 and 1945, for example when she notes that she and Helga saw The Governor the evening before Helga ‘fled forever to England, on a Kindertransport



organised by the Quakers’ (2003, p. 74), in July 1939, or that ‘I was […] at the cinema on the day the Second World War began’ (2003, p. 15). But in particular, Aichinger’s experience of the cinema is intertwined with the destruction of her family, and of the Jewish community more generally. Thus, she remarks that the landscape in The Governor which she and Helga ‘liked’ was putatively ‘the German living space demanded by Hitler in the East’ (2003, p. 75), and by extension the site of notorious concentration camps. And she comments mordantly that while Erna worried about how ‘you could catch your death’ at the Pheasant Cinema, in fact ‘[d]eath caught her, together with my grandmother, after they were deported to the extermination camp in Minsk’ (2003, pp. 13–14). In this context, the cinema assumed a new and vital significance for Aichinger, offering both a physical escape from the streets of Nazi-era Vienna and an imaginative escape from the horrors being perpetrated in them, becoming a place where ‘you dived beneath the surface, […] on a brief journey around the world, which saved you until the next one’ (2003, p.  198). Aichinger particularly emphasises the cinema’s crucial existential role as a refuge from the material dangers and psychological travails of her Mischling status when she recalls that: I wouldn’t have needed the sign ‘Jews Forbidden’ to make my addiction to the cinema, even to Nazi cinema, even more intense. We were still allowed to enter cinemas anyway, as we were only half-Jewish. And I didn’t identify with either Judaism or Christianity, both seemed equally alien to me, formed by fear and causing fear. The cinema was my salvation. (2003, p. 73)

But this refuge was not always proof against the realities of genocide. Aichinger is well aware that ‘Nazi cinema’ was an instrument of propaganda and mass distraction, noting that although ‘[f]or six years’ until the very last days of the war ‘Goebbels had ensured that [the major German studio] Ufa’s films didn’t disappear’ from Vienna: Rather a lot of other things did disappear, whole apartment buildings, bridges, the stony allotments on the edges of the canals, and also the Jews’ stars and the people who had pinned them to their overcoats. (2003, p. 199)

And in undoubtedly the most chilling passage in the texts discussed in this chapter, Aichinger remembers how Gisela’s, Erna’s and Felix’s fate was



invoked ‘some months’ after their deportation when she arrived late at a cinema, and a sympathetic cashier said: ‘The picture has already begun, but you can still get in.’ And added more softly: ‘I suppose you know what happened to your relatives?’ I replied: ‘I can imagine it’. ‘We can’t imagine anything’, the woman said. ‘What happens seems new to us every time’. I got into the film without much trouble. But the picture which really mattered was too blurry. (2003, p. 20)

The cinema cannot provide ‘salvation’ here. In Film and Fate, Aichinger explains that from very early childhood she ‘felt […] my own existence was an imposition’, and that she attempted to escape this imposition by pursuing ‘what was fleeting’ (2003, p. 65), first by reading, writing and drawing (2003, pp.  65–66), and then by ‘collect[ing] […] cinemas, which were more fleeting and more abiding possessions at the same time’ (2003, p. 74). She adds that: ‘What usually happens at the cinema is disappearing. The landscape of film is simultaneously a refuge and a place of distance from one’s own person, of separation from it’ (2003, p. 74).5 Aichinger’s metaphor of watching films in Nazi-­ era Vienna as ‘div[ing] beneath the surface’ is therefore consistent with her lifelong equation of the cinema and ‘disappearing’; and this equation also applies to her interest in film after her return to Vienna in 1988. For Aichinger extends the idea of ‘disappearing’ to her relatives and to the victims of Nazi genocide as a whole by elaborating on a famous line from The Third Man: ‘“Born to be murdered” […] should be translated as “born to disappear”, and not only in the case of my own family’ (2003 p. 71). She then suggests that in ‘going to the cinema’ in later years, she demonstrates a kind of solidarity with her own and others’ families because she creates ‘a clumsy reproduction of how those who were murdered disappeared’ (2003, p. 71). In two interviews from 2001, Aichinger suggests further that watching films is an appropriate mode of remembering when she describes the cinema in the terms—contingent, antithetical to chronology, fluid—in which (as I outlined above) she describes memory. Thus ‘the cinema disappears at every moment’ (Fässler 2011a, p. 192), and: Film destroys chronology, there’s blackness between the images. Memory doesn’t work chronologically either: I watch a film, absolutely in the



­ resent—then sentences surface which I heard seventy years ago in our p grandmother’s apartment in Hohlweggasse. (Fässler 2011a, p. 174)

Sigrid Nieberle notes one such moment at which chronology is destroyed, when a scene at a formal ball in Luchino Visconti’s Il Gattopardo makes Aichinger think of an inn outside Linz in her childhood (see Aichinger 2003, p.  109) and speculates that the scene and the memory are both ‘precursors of a “doomed society”’ (Nieberle 2001, p.  137). To this I would add another famous line in the The Third Man, when the pragmatic British officer played by Trevor Howard tells the naïve American author played by Joseph Cotten to ‘[l]eave death to the professionals’, which prompts Aichinger to ask: But isn’t it precisely the ‘professionals’, who are practised in sending other people to a place which they have absolutely no intention of seeking out themselves, who understand the least about the murderous details which they have invented? (2003, p. 200)

Conclusion Despite her great suffering in Nazi-era Vienna, and her pungent criticism of how the post-war Austrian state deals with its fascist past and with contemporary anti-Semitism, Aichinger felt unable to live or to write anywhere but in Vienna during the last decades of her life. Notwithstanding her view of individuals’ remembering as a fluid and contestable process, Aichinger’s Film and Fate, Improbable Journeys, and interviews given after 1988 offer powerfully expressed memories of Vienna’s Nazi past again and again. Her consciousness of that terrible past pervades the city: it is present at numerous sites of historical and individual significance, it emerges incidentally during even such mundane activities as visits to a petrol station or a bookshop, and it intrudes upon recollections of places other than Vienna itself. This recalls some of the fundamental observations in the scholarship on trauma generally and on the Holocaust specifically, such as Cathy Caruth’s suggestion that the ‘story of trauma’ is ‘a kind of double telling, the oscillation between […] the story of the unbearable nature of an event and the story of the unbearable nature of its survival’ (Caruth 2016, pp.  7–8), and Saul Friedlander’s remark that even decades after the Holocaust, ‘the best of literature and art dealing with the Shoah’ fails to ‘offer any redemptive stance’ (Friedlander 1995, p. 255).



In relation to the preoccupation with films, Christine Ivanovic argues that ‘the mimetic gesture with which Aichinger […] characterises her visit to the cinema as an attempt to disappear herself’ recalls the ‘attempt to repeat and work through which Freud considered the necessary condition of overcoming traumatic experiences’ (2011, p.  176). There is further evidence of this in Aichinger’s proclivity for ‘going […] to the same film as many as six or seven times’ (Aichinger 2003, p. 14): While she says that she likes to do this if the film shows ‘snow falling, or the landscapes of England or New England, or of Northern France, to which I am almost equally well disposed’ (2003, p. 14), the example she then gives is Louis Malle’s Au revoir les enfants, and she describes the scene in which a Catholic priest and the Jewish children he hid in his school ‘are taken away from the classroom by the Gestapo’s thugs’ (2003, p. 14). Interestingly, Au revoir les enfants is the only well-known film (or television series) dealing explicitly with the Nazi genocide which Aichinger mentions in any detail. In the three volumes I have analysed in this chapter, she discusses—to take one example—Laurel and Hardy repeatedly and sometimes at length (see 2003, pp. 94–97; 2007, pp. 146–49), but she says little or nothing about what I would loosely term ‘Holocaust films’ such as Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah or the television miniseries Holocaust, which have attracted considerable popular and scholarly attention. The role of the cinema in Aichinger’s processes of remembering seems to reflect an idiosyncratic combination of personal-psychological and situational factors: the example of her aunt Erna, the urge to escape her sense of ‘existence [as] an imposition’ which predated the even greater threat to existence in the years 1938–45, the fact that during those years a darkened cinema auditorium was one of the few places (perhaps the only place) where her ‘half-Jewish’ status was obscured, and her belief that the ‘disappearing’ involved in watching a film somehow replicates ‘disappearing’ during the fascist genocide. From Ilse Aichinger’s particular perspective, the act of visiting a cinema can in itself be a way of remembering Nazi-era Vienna, an experience of memory which operates independently of ‘Holocaust films’.

Notes 1. With the exception of Caruth’s book, Friedlander’s chapter and Uhl’s article (which are cited once each), all primary and secondary sources cited in this chapter are in German. All translations from German are my own. Although



I have published translations of all the texts by Aichinger which are cited here, in the interests of consistency, all page references to those sources are to the original German texts. 2. For similar references to the Sweden Bridge, see Aichinger 2003, pp. 59–60; Aichinger 2007, p. 67; Fässler 2011a, pp. 108 & 113. 3. For similar references to the Central Cemetery, see Fässler 2011a, pp. 46, 63 & 163. A cemetery also plays a major role in the third chapter of The Greater Hope, ʻThe Holy Landʼ (pp. 52–80). 4. Vienna’s Burg Cinema (Burg Kino 2018) has held regular screenings of The Third Man since 1980, and at the time of writing is showing the film every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday: see Fässler 2011b, p. 238; and https://www. viewed 29 August 2018. 5. For similar references to existence as an imposition, see Fässler 2011a, pp.  111, 202 & 220; for references to the urge to disappear see Fässler 2011a, pp. 109, 140 & 154; and for references to film and ‘disappearing’ see Fässler 2011a, pp. 156 & 179.

References Aichinger, I 1987, Kleist, Moos, Fasane, 2nd ed, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. Aichinger, I 2003, Film und Verhängnis: Blitzlichter auf ein Leben, 2nd ed, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. Aichinger, I 2007, Unglaubwürdige Reisen, 2nd ed, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. Aichinger, I 2012, Die gröβere Hoffnung, 12th ed, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main. Berbig, R 2011, “20. März 1996”: Ilse Aichingers unveröffentlichter Initialtext zum Spätwerk, in Ivanovic C & Shindo S (eds.), Absprung zur Weiterbesinnung: Geschichte und Medien bei Ilse Aichinger, Stauffenberg Verlag, Tübingen, pp. 51–64. Burg Kino (Vienna), viewed 29 August 2018, third-man. Caruth, C 2016, Unclaimed experience: Trauma, narrative, and history, 2nd ed, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Fässler, S 2001, Die Orte, die wir sahen, sehen uns an, in Aichinger I, Kurzschlüsse: Wien, 2nd ed, Edition Korrespondezen, Vienna, pp. 65–78. Fässler, S 2007, Vorwort, in Aichinger I, Unglaubwürdige Reisen, 2nd ed, Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, pp. 7–12. Fässler, S (ed.) 2011a, Es muss gar nichts bleiben: Interviews 1952–2005, 2nd ed, Edition Korrespondenzen, Vienna.



Fässler, S 2011b, Von Wien her, auf Wien hin: Ilse Aichingers ‘Geographie der eigenen Existenz’, Böhlau, Cologne. Friedlander, S 1995, Trauma, memory, and transference, in Hartman GH (ed.), Holocaust remembrance: The shapes of memory, 2nd ed, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, pp. 252–63. Ivanovic, C 2011, Masse. Medien. Mensch: Ilse Aichingers bioskopisches Schreiben, in Ivanovic C & Shindo S (eds.), Absprung zur Weiterbesinnung: Geschichte und Medien bei Ilse Aichingeri, Stauffenberg Verlag, Tübingen, pp. 173–84. Nieberle, S 2001, ‘Ilse Aichinger im Kino des Verschwindens’, in Herrmann B & Thums B (eds.), ‘Was wir einsetzen können, ist Nüchternheit’: Zum Werk Ilse Aichingers, Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg, pp. 127–46. Uhl, H 2016, ‘From the periphery to the center of memory: Holocaust memorials in Vienna’, Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 221–42.


Black Skin as Site of Memory: Stories of Trauma from the Black Atlantic Jarrod Hayes

When one thinks of sites of memory in relation to slavery, one often thinks of slave-castles-turned-memorials, as in Elmina or Cape Coast in Ghana or Gorée Island in Senegal …, or perhaps the Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery in Nantes, France. Yet, in a 1989 address, Toni Morrison decried the lack of memorials for slaves in the US: There is no place you or I can go, to think about or not think about, to summon the presences of, or recollect the absences of slaves; nothing that reminds us of the ones who made the journey and of those who did [not?] make it. There is no suitable memorial or plaque or wreath or wall or park or skyscraper lobby. There’s no 300-foot tower. There’s no small bench by the road. (Morrison 1989)

Inspired by these remarks, in 2006 the Toni Morrison Society launched the Bench by the Road Project, which has now placed at least 20 benches across the world (BRP 2018). It is interesting that the Society chose one of the less ‘monumental’ options that Morrison listed, but perhaps the

J. Hayes (*) Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




anonymity of a bench serves as a reminder of the many names of slaves, whose patronymics have frequently been lost to history. In other words, these benches may serve as memorials to forgetting as much as to remembering. Should one visit Salem, Massachusetts, one might very well see another monument composed of stone benches, benches inserted into the inner side of a stone wall enclosing a park. These benches, however, are by a graveyard, not a road, and they memorialise those executed during the Salem witch trials between 1692 and 1693. One woman tried for and convicted of witchcraft (but not executed and therefore not memorialised in Salem) was Tituba, who was also a slave. In Danvers, Massachusetts (once known as Salem Village as opposed to the town of Salem just mentioned), one may nonetheless visit the excavated remnants of her master Samuel Parris’s parsonage, but what remains of the memory of Tituba as both a slave and someone accused of witchcraft? It is not that she has been totally erased from the archive; the transcripts of her trial testimony remain. Yet Elaine G. Breshaw writes of ‘Tituba’s low profile in the history books’ and ‘the dearth of useful, direct information about her’ (1996, p. xx) and even details how fictional rewritings of Tituba’s story have erased the fact that she was an Amerindian (probably an Arawak) in favour of making her an Afro-Caribbean (see also Hansen 1974; Garane 1995; Jalalzai 2009). In her 1986 novel Moi, Tituba, sorcière … Noire de Salem [I, Tituba, black witch of Salem (Condé 1992)], Guadeloupean writer Maryse Condé as well creates her own slave memorial of sorts, by writing a mostly fictional account of Tituba as a slave of African origins who left barely a trace on the historical record.1 In Condé’s version, Tituba is the daughter of Abena, an enslaved Ashanti woman raped by an English sailor during her transport to Barbados. After Abena is executed for resisting her subsequent master’s sexual advances, this master chases Tituba off of his plantation, after which she is raised by an older Nago woman named Man Yaya, who also trains her in the traditional medico-magical healing arts and the ability to communicate with the dead. When as a young adult, Tituba takes up with a slave named John Indien, his owner Susanna Endicott forces them to get married, which makes Tituba her de facto slave. Then, after an illness that she suspects Tituba caused, Susanna sells both John Indien and Tituba to Samuel Parris, who takes them to the village of Salem, Massachusetts, where Tituba will be caught up in the witch trials. Readers of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible will remember Tituba,



to whom he refers as a ‘Negro slave’ (p. 8), yet who receives significantly fewer lines than the other women characters. Nonetheless, if Miller used the Salem witch trials to write a parable of sorts about the anti-communist witch hunts of 1950s America, in this chapter, I will argue that Condé deploys the witch hunt, which creates the difference named by the accusation and labelling of ‘witches’ as a metaphor for racial naming as a form of scapegoating.2 Physically tortured during her interrogation, Tituba allegorises the racialisation of slaves and their descendants by marking black skin (by marking skin as black) as a site of traumatic memory. I would thus like to think through Pierre Nora’s concept of ‘site of memory’ rather differently by taking the unusual step of a thought experiment that asks what kinds of critical analysis can result when one considers black skin to be a site of traumatic memory. While potentially offensive in its implied reification—a reification that is the proper of racism—such an analytical move holds out the possibility of new ways of analysing this reification, which Frantz Fanon (1967) originally described in 1952 as the very epidermisation that produces blackness.3 In other words, since the period of slavery, racism has inscribed blackness onto the skin of those it racialises, who through this very process are marked with racial difference. Through a work of historical fiction, Condé rewrites a traumatic moment in the history of both slavery and racialisation, itself a moment already rewritten by Miller in his own version. Condé’s repetition of the trauma she retells, I will argue, parallels the repetition required for the production and reproduction of racial difference. According to Homi K. Bhabha (1994), the stereotype is the ‘major discursive strategy’ of colonial discourse, a strategy that ‘vacillates between what is always “in place”, already known, and something that must be anxiously repeated … as if the essential duplicity of the Asiatic or the bestial sexual license of the African that needs no proof, can never really, in discourse, be proved’ (p.  66). Furthermore, this historical event that Condé memorialises is itself already a repetition of previous traumas within the histories of slavery and racialisation, ‘its repeatability in changing historical and discursive conjunctures’ (Bhabha, p. 66), and since as long as there is race, this repetition continues after the publication of Condé’s novel, it can also help us read recent political history along similar lines. Black skin, in short, is the site where slavery is remembered, its effects repeated and reproduced in the repeatability of the stereotype allegorised by Condé. In the US, since abolition, practices such as segregation, mass incarceration, racial profiling, torture (referred to euphemistically as



‘police brutality’), and police murder with impunity have not only continued this process of ‘epidermisation’ but also reinforced it, thereby repeating and reproducing the foundational violence of slavery within the history of its aftermaths. Torture is thus one means of inscribing race on the body it helps to racialise in a manner similar to the way, described by Monique Wittig (1992, pp.  43–44), in which gender is written onto bodies: ‘Language casts sheaves of reality upon the social body, stamping it and violently shaping it’. And for Wittig, we remember, it is less the case that gender is inscribed onto an already-sexed body; rather, this gendered and gendering inscription also marks the body as sexed—sex, that very sign of the biological. In sociology, for Colette Guillaumin (1972, p.  3, my trans.), race as well works as a signifying system: ‘Race will not appear there as biological reality, but rather as biological form used as SIGN’.

Tituba Questioned Such signs are inscribed onto Tituba’s body when she is ‘questioned’ in the following passage: ‘Confess that this is your doing, but that you did not act alone and denounce your accomplices! Good and Osborne and the others!’ ‘I have no accomplice, since I have done nothing.’ One of the men sat squarely astride me and began to hammer my face with his fists, which were as hard as stones. Another lifted up my skirt and thrust a sharpened stick into the most sensitive part of my body, taunting me: ‘Go on, take it, it’s John Indian’s prick’. (Condé 1992, p. 91)

The word questioned is in scare quotes above, because in this passage, one may see a connection with work on more recent colonial encounters, such as Henri Alleg’s (1961) La question, which recounts its author’s imprisonment and torture by French colonial authorities in Algeria. This work, in its very title, also reminds us that, in French, the word question can be a euphemism for torture itself. We may remember the experience of Djamila Boupacha, presented by Simone de Beauvoir and Gisèle Halimi (1962), which also highlights the intersectional relation between colonial and sexual violence. Boupacha’s experience is later reflected as institutionalised in work by sociologist Marnia Lazreg (2008), and historian Joshua Cole (2005), the latter of whom goes further to consider torture as a productive encounter of mutual recognition and dependence in which each position



requires the other for its self-definition. In relation to these theorists of torture, Condé further emphasises the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality that comes into play in the racialisation of black skin, an intersectionality this chapter will revisit below.4 Cole’s title, ‘Intimate acts and unspeakable relations: remembering torture and the war for Algerian independence’, speaks volumes about the question of la question in its emphasis on the intimacy that defines the relation between torturer and ‘victim’ as well as the unspeakable acts that bind and bound them—acts about which, by the way, Condé is also quite willing to speak. Cole describes ‘torture’s family romance’ (2005, p. 131) and argues that it defines its ‘participants’ in relation to and against one another (p. 130). There is also an intimate relationship between torture and naming; torture writes as well, literally inscribing onto flesh marks of trauma that signify the name of race. This intimacy recalls that of the Hegelian master-slave dialectic, indeed recalls the intimacy forced on Tituba by her interrogators, itself recalling and repeating her mother’s rape at the hands of her masters that resulted in her conception. That the intimacy characterising France’s major colonial encounter of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in North Africa recalls another, earlier encounter in the Caribbean, one shaped by the Atlantic triangle, will be far from the last repetition that not only defines black skin as a site of traumatic memory but also re-enacts the very trauma remembered.

The Place of Slavery But what does torture have to do with place? Certainly place is quite important in Condé, since Tituba moves along various places in the African diaspora, from Barbados, to America, and back to Barbados.5 By retracing the Black Atlantic triangle through the voice of an Anglophone Caribbean-­ born slave and, in so doing, remembering the very places between which forced migration served as the foundation for the slave trade, Condé rewrites the Salem witch trials as a Francophone writer, thereby offering a view of Anglo-American slavery and racialisation. Whereas one might think that Nora’s (1984–1992) notion of a site of memory denotes a more literal place than black skin would as a generalised concept, in his collection most examples are not truly places in the geographic sense. For example, one would be hard pressed to think of Proust’s madeleine—to which an entire chapter is devoted (Compagnon 1992)—as a place, even though it is very connected to memory. The chapter on ‘Vines and wine’ (Durand



1992) is more obviously about the ‘place’ of wine in the French imaginary, its ‘mythology’ as Roland Barthes (1957) would put it.6 Even actual places like monuments for fallen soldiers (Prost 1984) are less about the actual sites one might visit than, again, the ‘place’ occupied by the memorialisation of the dead in a nationalisation of French identity. A number of critics have commented on the dearth of sites of colonial memory in Nora’s collection (see, for example, Blanchard et al. 2005, pp. 16–17; Mann 2005, p. 412, and Forsdick in this volume); slavery is one such notable absence, and France’s colonial violence in Algeria is another. This chapter thus joins others that attempt to fill that void. Condé as well has commented on Nora’s notion of a ‘lieu de mémoire’ (see Tayeb-Khyar 1991, p.  357), and Elisabeth Mudimbé-Boyi (1993, p. 755) has written, ‘Tituba, in reconstructing one individual’s story, also allegorizes the collective history of the Caribbean. History here conflates into literature, and the text reveals itself as a lieu de mémoire …’, after which she goes on to quote Nora himself. In what Kathleen Gyssells (2006, p. 79) calls Tituba’s ‘incipit’, Condé further memorialises the sexual violence of slavery in the very first sentence of the novel: ‘Abena, my mother, was raped by an English sailor on the deck of Christ the King one day in the year 16** while the ship was sailing for Barbados. I was born from this act of aggression. From this act of hatred and contempt’ (p. 3). These three sentences are worth considering in detail. The first sentence should be read in the French original, because the published translation changes its syntax: ‘Abena, ma mère, un marin anglais la viola sur le pont de Christ the King, un jour de 16** alors que le navire faisait voile vers la Barbade’ (Condé 1986, p. 15). The first word, her mother’s name, as well as the apposition ‘my mother’ are actually the direct object of the first sentence; they are then followed by its subject, ‘an English sailor’, followed this time in a more conventional word order by the sentence’s verb—‘rape’. The African subject, the colonised subject, thus comes into being in the novel not as a subject but as an object, and the action that object-ises, object-ifies the colonised subject is that of rape. The place of that objectification through rape is ironically christened, Christianised in what is also perhaps a reference to the very Christian king in whose name Africans are enslaved, their labour extorted, in the name of king and country. In the second sentence, the narrator herself comes into being as well, is born out of this objectification through rape. The first passage quoted above thus repeats this opening rape, which it recalls, and associates this rape with the interpolation that invents the black subject (again not quite a subject but an object) whose subjectivity is denied even as it is being



called into being. Again, this female, black subject comes into being through an intersectional violence that is both colonial and sexual. And if this violence operates by penetrating the body and its skin, it nonetheless leaves its mark on the body’s surface as the sign of race. Furthermore, if Hegel defined his own dialectic in part through the relation between master and slave, to understand what I would like to develop as a kind of subject-object dialectic—interpolating a subject into being only to deny her subjectivity through objectification—I suggest that we turn to an essay by Sharon Marcus (1992, p. 386) titled ‘Fighting bodies, fighting words’, which argues against the notion that ‘rape has always already occurred and women are always either already raped or already rapable’. Instead, she proposes what she calls a ‘rape script’, through which ‘we can see rape as a process of sexist gendering which we can attempt to disrupt’ (p. 391). In her view, ‘Masculine power and feminine powerlessness neither simply precede nor cause rape; rather rape is one of culture’s many modes of feminizing women’ (p. 386). And here is where the rape script comes in: ‘A rape act thus imposes as well as presupposes misogynist inequalities; rape is not only scripted; it also scripts’ (p. 386). The rape script thus precedes the rape, which also contributes to writing it. It therefore functions in parallel with the Law of gender as theorised by Judith Butler (1990). Because the Law is determined by the corpus of gender performances, although individual performances are determined by this Law, they also contribute to it and can thus introduce excess and parody, which can shift the Law itself. In the scene from Tituba, however, something quite specific goes on: it is not just that the torturers/rapists attribute to her a desire for the rape; they also displace their own agency in the act onto a black man. Historically, rumours of sex between black men and white women served as the excuse for lynching, often accompanied by castration; such acts of racial terror were thus justified by a rhetorical inversion or reversal of the very kind of institutionalised rape with which Tituba begins. In fact, Tituba contains a reference to precisely this kind of violence when Man Yaya explains why she has taken so long to arrive after being summoned by Tituba: ‘I was at the other end of the island, comforting a slave whose husband died under torture. They whipped him. They rubbed hot pepper on his wounds and then they tore off his penis’ (p. 29). Here we may already see the beginning of an iterability of the rape script, itself a repetition of the iterability through which blackness is stamped onto bodies in the process of racialisation.



Branding Flesh as Black This iterability is also an important component of the repetitive nature of racist trauma, and if the diasporic moves that Condé re-enacts result in a multidirectional narrative, remembering racist trauma often occurs along multidirectional pathways as well. This reading therefore pursues a few of these pathways, such as the more recent historical example of the re-­ inscription of slavery onto the racialised body of Haitian Abner Louima, arrested and assaulted in 1997 after he intervened in a fight outside a Brooklyn nightclub. His assault culminated in his being raped in the precinct and included the forcible insertion of a broken broomstick into his rectum (CNN 1999; Chan 2007). As a result, his ‘sphincter was torn’ and he had ‘a punctured bladder and a severed colon’ (Brenner 1997). Afterwards, when he was taken to the emergency room, ‘officers told the Jamaican nurse that he had been injured in a homosexual episode’ (Brenner 1997). Read alongside Condé, this example parallels Tituba’s interrogation in the reversal of agency it reproduces. As in many cases of police torture, initially it was Louima who was charged with assaulting police officers; this case was unusual in that the bodily harm resulting from his rape was attributed to his own homosexual desires. In another example of such an iterability, the title of an article about a police rape in France speaks for itself: ‘Man “raped” with police truncheon was “accidentally sodomised when his trousers fell down”’ (Hartley-Parkinson 2017). Let me also point out that the instrument of Louima’s rape/torture, a broomstick, that tool of women’s frequently unpaid labour par excellence, is also often considered to be the witch’s favourite mode of transportation. In short, in attributing their sexual assault to Tituba’s own desires, her interrogators attempt to efface their own agency in stamping race onto her body. The repetition and reproduction of violence that Condé helps readers understand does not end with the specific parallel of Louima’s torture and rape. This incident occurred during the administration of former mayor Rudolph Giuliani, ‘an early Trump supporter’ and ‘top candidate for secretary of state’ (Phillip 2017), who was ‘named … as an informal advisor on cybersecurity’ by Donald J.  Trump when he was still president-elect (Phillip 2017). Giuliani was well known for his policing policies, characterised by a crackdown on minor infractions, the so-called broken-­windows approach, and he became, so far with impunity, an accomplice of the crimes for which Trump was impeached. Trump himself is certainly no



stranger to the witch hunt. He has repeatedly claimed that he is the victim of one, and he regularly engages in the kind of reversal of agency described above. He has claimed that every crime of which he has been accused was actually committed by someone else, and his repetitions of the sorts of acts that Condé theorises do not end there. He is on tape bragging about sexually assaulting women. He called for the execution of the ‘Central Park Five’—African American and Latino men falsely accused of assault and rape—even after they were exonerated by DNA evidence. His family’s real estate business was sued by the federal government for racial discrimination. He inaugurated his most recent political career by asserting that Barack Obama, the first African American president, was not actually an American citizen by birth and was therefore ineligible for the presidency. These examples highlight not only the reiteration that turns sites of memory into sites of trauma but also the very productiveness of trauma itself in gendering and racialising bodies. One further example of revisiting a site of traumatic memory in the continuing re-inscription of slavery and its aftermaths in the US is worth mentioning. Ronald Reagan’s first stop after securing the Republican nomination in 1980 was Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of a murder of three civil-rights activists by members of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964 with the participation of local law enforcement. While he failed to mention the only thing Philadelphia, MS, is famous for, Reagan did voice his own support for ‘states’ rights’. Regarding race in US history, one consequential states’ right has been the ‘right’ to maintain legalised slavery. The fight over this one was the Civil War. Another was the ‘right’ to maintain Apartheid-like social restrictions or segregation in the Jim Crow South. Around the time of the 2016  Democratic Convention, which marked the beginning of the general-election campaign, Trump sent his own namesake (repetition in the form of a proper name), Donald Trump Jr., to the very same town where the latter supported keeping the ‘Confederate’ flag, badge of honour of white supremacists, some of whom his father would later call ‘very fine people’. Both Reagan’s visit and Trump’s reiteration of it also repeat Nixon’s so-called Southern Turn, which capitalised on Southern white resentment against desegregation to revive support for the so-called Republican Party, now republican in name only. And Nixon’s Southern Turn repeats the defeat of Reconstruction shortly after the Civil War, which saw the initial rise of white supremacy in the form of the Ku Klux Klan. Such recent examples of repeating racist trauma bring us back to the question of repetition in Condé, the repetition of la question as torture.



And the repetition in question is of the very opening lines we have just examined. Tituba, the ‘strange fruit’ of the opening rape,7 becomes for her mother a kind of memorial, a site of memory of the racialising gesture that literally gives birth to Tituba as a character and subject (racialised as object): Although the color of my skin was far from being light and my hair was crinkly all over, I never stopped reminding my mother of the white sailor who had raped her on the deck of Christ the King, while surrounded by a circle of obscene voyeurs. I constantly reminded her of the pain and humiliation. (p. 6)

Whereas the previous citation repeats the proper name of the ship on which Tituba’s mother was raped, let us now examine a subsequent repetition that comes in a passage in which Abena refuses to repeat the novel’s opening scene by stabbing her master when he attempts to rape her. So, the penalty for refusing her master’s reiteration of the novel’s opening racialising rape is death here, and in the scene in which her execution is carried out, this reiteration is carried out through a repetition of the very language in which the episode is narrated: They hanged my mother. I watched her body swing from the lower branches of a silk-cotton tree. She had committed a crime for which there is no pardon. She had struck a white man. She had not killed him, however. In her clumsy rage she had only managed to gash his shoulder. They hanged my mother. All the slaves had been summoned to her execution. Once her neck had been broken and her soul had departed, there rose up a clamor of anger and revolt that the overseers silenced with great lashes of their whips. Taking refuse in one of the women’s skirts, I felt something harden inside me like lava; a feeling that was never to leave me, a mixture of terror and mourning. They hanged my mother. (p. 8)

The refrain ‘On pendit ma mère’ (Condé 1986, pp. 21–22) [‘They hanged my mother’] occurs three times and thus repeats the extrajudicial hanging of a slave, itself repeated after abolition in the form of lynching, itself repeated not in accusations of sexual harassment as US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas claimed in his confirmation hearings in 1991, but in police murders and the police officers absolved of the crime of committing them.



Tituba Tried, Tituba Named Speaking of judges and judgement, Tituba’s trial, including the officialised and institutionalised performances by which she is convicted of being a witch, also officialises and institutionalises her being named as a witch, even if her first naming as such is carried out (albeit in jest) by her husband John Indien: ‘Ow! What are you doing, little witch?’ He was joking, but it made me think. What is a witch? I noticed that when he said the word, it was marked [entâché] with disapproval. Why should that be? Why? Isn’t the ability to communicate with the invisible world, to keep constant links with the dead, to care for others and heal, a superior gift of nature that inspires respect, admiration, and gratitude? Consequently, shouldn’t the witch (if that’s what the person who has this gift is to be called) be cherished and revered rather than feared. (p. 17)

The same naming that occurs through rape and torture in other passages is carried out here within the institution of heterosexual marriage, just as the previously free Tituba is enslaved through her heterosexual marriage to a slave, an enslavement that is also punctuated with her baptism and becoming-Christian. Furthermore, the word ‘entâché ’ (Condé 1986, p. 35), translated here as ‘marked’, but which can also mean ‘stained’, not only represents what supposedly already exists, a referent that Tituba nonetheless calls into question, but it also stains; it stamps an invented reality onto the one it names. Tituba repeats her challenge to the name and category of witch in a conversation with Susanna Endicott, the woman who becomes her mistress and owner after she marries John Indien: ‘“Weren’t you brought up by a certain Nago witch called Mama Yaya?” “Witch,” I stammered. “Witch? She took care of people and cured them”’ (p. 26). Later in the novel, she elaborates on her surprise at being associated with the appellation of witch: ‘Why in this society does one give the function of witch an evil connotation? The witch, if we must use this word, rights wrongs, helps, consoles, heals’ (p. 96). In these passages, Tituba suggests a way of understanding racist labelling already asserted by Fanon (1952, p.  75), who in Peau noire, masques blancs, writes: It is the racist who creates his inferior.



This conclusion brings us back to Sartre: ‘The Jew is one whom other men consider a Jew: that is the simple truth from which we must start … It is the anti-Semite who makes the Jew’. (Fanon 1967, p. 93)

Throughout Fanon’s text one notices an engagement with the work of Jean-Paul Sartre (esp. 1954), who further remarks, ‘If the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him’ (Sartre 1965, p. 13). If for Sartre, therefore, the anti-Semite creates the Jew, and for Fanon, the racist invents the Black, in Tituba the witch is a creation of the Puritan. The racialising re-inscription of slavery onto black bodies is therefore double, both physical and existential. And as every (former) student of US literature knows, the Puritan founds the US and US identity; for Condé, therefore (and she hardly differs from consensus here), slavery founds America.

The Evils of Race In a later passage, Tituba even connects the above two passages by connecting the two moments/places/sites of memory where they occur, Bridgetown, Barbados, and Salem, Massachusetts: ‘In Bridgetown Susanna Endicott had already told me she was convinced that my color was indicative of my close connections with Satan’ (p. 65). The allusion here, to a set of theological associations with skin colour, is first made earlier in the novel when her second master catches her during an intimate moment with John Indien: It was Samuel Parris. When he observed our position, a little blood filtered into his wan cheeks and he spit out venomously: ‘I know that the color of your skin is the sign of your damnation, but as long as you are under my roof you will behave as Christians. Come and say your prayers!’ We obeyed. Goodwife Parris and the two girls, Abigail and Betsey, were already on their knees in one of the cabins. The master remained standing, lifted his eyes to the ceiling and started to bray. I couldn’t make much out of his speech, except for the oft-heard words sin, evil, Satan, and demon. (p. 41)

Tituba here heightens the relevance of Sartre’s theorisation of antisemitism: ‘Anti-Semitism is thus seen to be at bottom a form of Manichaeism. It explains the course of the world by the struggle of the principle of Good with the principle of Evil’ (p. 40). Yet this Evil is not one that pre-exists



anti-Semitism, since ‘[t]he anti-Semite has cast his lot for Evil so as not to have to cast his lot for Good. The more one is absorbed in fighting Evil, the less one is tempted to place the Good in question’ (p. 44). One could go further, therefore, and assert that the anti-Semite invents Evil (as s/he invents the Jew) to assert the value of Good. Likewise, in Condé, the white Puritan thus creates the identity of black, of witch, of witch as black, and of black as witch. Condé strengthens Sartre’s contribution to the theorisation of racialisation in still another way. After her trial, Tituba is required to pay for her stay in gaol. Samuel Parris refuses to provide this money (and she obviously has none of her own), so at first, she is rented out as a cook. In the end, she is resold to a Portuguese Jew in the shipping trade named Benjamin Cohen d’Azevodo, who fled religious persecution first to Holland, then to Brazil and Curaçao. She uses her powers to allow him to communicate with his dead wife, and they end up becoming lovers. After at first refusing to grant Tituba her freedom (he cannot stand the thought of losing his wife again), he finally does so after all nine of his children are killed in a pogrom, which he sees as divine retribution for his initial refusal, and Tituba returns to her native Barbados. The novel thus brings into embrace—both literally and figuratively—the histories of the African diaspora (in the form of the slave trade) and the Jewish one (in the history of the Reconquista and Inquisition), both linked through the history colonisation of the New World. (Both the Reconquista and Christopher Columbus’s first voyage occurred in 1492.) Through Benjamin’s history lessons about the oppression of Jews, Condé engages in a kind of comparative study of diasporas as embodied by both Tituba and Benjamin. One aspect of the history of race, racialisation, and racism specific to France is the role of antisemitism (which, for example, plays a significantly lesser role in the US, especially after the middle of the twentieth century). As a result, the Dreyfus Affair is often cited as a key moment in the invention of race in France. It is, however, much less frequently noted that the first article of the Code noir  (1685), which regulated the treatment of slaves in the Caribbean colonies, states: Let us enjoin all our officers to chase out all Jews who have taken up residence on our islands. We also order the Jews, as enemies of the Christian name to leave within three months starting from the date of publication of the present articles, under penalty of the confiscation of body and goods. (my trans.)



Given the violent stamping of race onto racialised bodies analysed above, it is worth mentioning other aspects of the Code noir, which regulates punishments such as whipping, the amputation of ears, and branding with the fleur-de-lys (remember Tituba’s own experience of torture). It outlines the conditions under which the death penalty can be applied but forbids individual masters from killing slaves on their own without involving the legal system. It also forbids them from ‘torturing’ slaves but not from whipping them. Torture (amputations, branding) is thus neatly clarified as belonging to the institution of slavery, not the idiosyncrasies of individual owners. In short, far from originating in the Dreyfus Affair, the links between antisemitism and the racialisation of black bodies go back to the beginnings of the French slave economy.

The Blush of Race Returning to the passage in which Samuel Parris catches Tituba and John Indien in the act of lovemaking, one finds another hint of how Sartre and Fanon’s reading of Sartre can enrich this reading of Condé and may further understand how racialisation invents whiteness as it imposes blackness. This hint is one of a disturbance in the white self (‘un peu de sang filtra sous ses joues blêmes’ (Condé 1986, p. 71) [‘a little blood filtered into his wan cheeks’ (p.  41)]. Embarrassment? Arousal? Regardless, white blood moves (in the sense of both dislocation and the provocation of an affective response) in response to black desire. Perhaps this blood (blood has long served as a metaphor for race) moves as a result of envy. A certain paradox thus appears: if racialisation works through abjectification,8 it can also work through a desire that would seemingly contradict the abject. Condé hints at such a desire one Sunday as the Parris family prepares for Sabbath service, when upon arriving at church, Tituba remarks a certain complicity among all the village girls: ‘They were dying [“elles brûlaient d’envie” (Condé 1986, p. 124)] to roll on the ground too and to attract everybody’s attention. I felt that at any moment they would fall into a trance as well’ (p. 76). In this sexually repressed society, the performance of demonic possession offers the possibility of release by more sublimated means. Again, a comparison with Sartre is in order, for he, too, examined the role of desire in anti-Semitism, also linked to its Manichaean character: ‘Manichaeism conceals a deep-seated attraction toward Evil’ (p.  45). Furthermore, this desire is sexual in nature: ‘[O]ne of the elements of his



hatred is a profound sexual attraction toward Jews. His behaviour reflects a curiosity fascinated by Evil’ (p. 46). And of course, Fanon would echo Sartre’s intersectional understanding of the role of sexuality in anti-­ Semitism in his own theorisation of the racist invention of a black hypersexual masculinity. Another passage in Condé, only a bit later, strengthens this reading by offering further clues as to the desire that ‘possesses’ the Parris girls: ‘Undress them!’ She had to obey. I won’t linger over the difficulty she had in undressing the girls, who writhed about like a worm cut in two and screamed as if they were being skinned alive. She managed, however, to finish the job and the girls’ bodies emerged, Betsey’s perfectly childlike, Abigail’s nearing adolescence with her ugly tuft of pubic hair and the rosy rounds of her nipples. Dr. Griggs examined them carefully despite the abominable curses Abigail showered him with, since she had begun to pepper her screams with the vilest of insults. Finally he turned to Samuel Parris and solemnly declared: ‘I can see no disorder of the spleen or the liver nor congestion of the bile or overheating of the blood. In a word, I can see no physical cause. I must therefore conclude that the evil hand of Satan is upon them’. (pp. 80–81)

Exposing the girls’ bare skin to a puritanical medical gaze constitutes a means by which scopophilia can likewise satisfy a repressed desire. It is thus less the case that congress with the devil represents the threat of an outside breaking in than that the devil (with the witch as his human companion) is always already inside as the object of a puritan desire that must be repressed in the constitution of white Christian identity. In other words, the racialised Other is internal to the racialising Self as Bhabha theorised in relation to the colonial subject. According to him, the colonial subject encompasses both the position of coloniser and colonised, not because they are identical or there is no power differential between the two, but because each is defined in relation to the other, each is internal to the other, just as in the relation between torturer and victim: ‘It is not the colonialist Self or the colonized Other, but the disturbing distance in-­ between that constitutes the figure of colonial otherness—the white man’s artifice inscribed onto the black man’s body’ (p.  45). If this artifice is characterised by what Bhabha calls ‘colonial mimicry’, ‘the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the



same but not quite’ (p. 86), the reverse side of the coin of mimicry is menace: ‘The ambivalence of colonial authority repeatedly turns from mimicry—a difference that is almost total but not quite—to menace—a difference that is almost total but not quite’ (p. 91; emphasis added). And racial otherness as menace is founded upon stereotype, which as already stated at the beginning of this chapter, is ‘something that must be anxiously repeated’ (p. 66), something that ‘needs no proof, can never really, in discourse, be proved’ (p. 66). In other words, the stereotype ‘works’ according to opposing moves. It claims to assert that what it claims is so obvious as to need no proof. Yet it can never be proven, only repeatedly asserted. It claims to need no proof, yet must be repeated as if its very repetition somehow pulls proof out of thin air. Thus, ‘it is the force of ambivalence that gives the colonial stereotype its repeatability’ (p.  66), which is the ambivalence that makes of the stereotype a self-contradicting endeavour. Samuels Parris’s blush therefore offers a hint of the intimacy that connects torturer and victims in Cole’s account, a hint of the desire that constitutes the other side of the coin of the abjection that is more commonly recognised as the proper of racism. At the site of traumatic memory that is black skin, the racist and the racialised then meet in a violent embrace, a kind of kiss of literal death when it occurs in its most extreme form. If the self-proclaimed victim of the witch hunt can turn out to be the hunter, the creator of the label that scapegoats the witch as a metaphor for the racist’s racialised other, memory then functions here as a repetitive act whose reiteration is the very mechanism by which the stereotype operates. One could also say that fundamental to this rememoration is a simultaneous forgetting (another other side of the coin, like self to other, torturer to tortured, racist to racialised, coloniser to colonised, and abject to desire), a forgetting of the productive character of the stereotype as repetition. Perhaps then the sites of traumatic memory worked through here can offer occasions for an alternative or counter-memory, one that remembers not just the violence of the trauma itself but also the symbolic violence enacted through the very repetition that is the memory of trauma remembered without an acknowledgement of memory’s productive character, productive here in the sense of reproducing the difference of which the original trauma serves as a kind of origin.



Notes 1. On Condé as a slave narrative, see Gyssells (2006, pp.  70–71); Glover (2011, p. 99); White (2013); Simmons (2014). 2. On Condé’s rewriting of Miller, see Garane (1995); Gauthier (2010); Roszak (2014); Collins (2015); Sullivan (2017, pp. 73–76). 3. On the relation between Fanon and Condé, see Waddell (2003, p. 154). 4. On intersectionality in Tituba, see Waddell (2003, p.  159). Tamiozzo (2002, p. 134) discusses the relation between Condé and Gloria Anzaldúa, an early poet and theorist of intersectionality. 5. On Tituba as a diasporic text, see Thomas (2006); White (2013). 6. On the postcolonial possibilities of Barthes’s notion, see Achille and Moudileno (2018). 7. This expression repeats the title of a Billy Holiday song about lynching. When Tituba is finally hanged at the end of the novel after fomenting a slave rebellion in her native Barbados, she states, ‘Autour de moi, d’étranges arbres se hérissaient d’étranges fruits’ (p. 263). [‘All around me strange trees were bristling with strange fruit’ (p. 172).] See also Thomas (2006, p. 103). 8. Compare with the passage in which Susanna Endicott instructs Tituba: ‘But you will leave the cooking to me. I cannot bear to have you niggers touching my food with the discolored, waxy palms of your hands’ (p. 21).

References Achille, E & Moudileno, L 2018, Mythologies postcoloniales: pour une décolonisation du quotidien, Champion, Paris. Alleg, H 1961, La question, Minuit, Paris. Barthes, R 1957, Mythologies, Seuil, Paris. Beauvoir, S & Halimi, G 1962, Djamila Boupacha: the story of the torture of a young Algerian girl which shocked liberal French opinion, trans. Green P, Macmillan, New York. Bhabha, HK 1994, The location of culture, Routledge, London. Blanchard, P, Bancel, N & Lemaire, S (eds. and intro.) 2005, La fracture coloniale: la société française au prisme de l’héritage colonial, La Découverte, Paris. Brenner, M 1997, ‘Incident in the 70th precinct’, Vanity Fair December, viewed 15 February 2018, . Breshaw, EG 1996, Tituba, reluctant witch of Salem: devilish Indians and Puritan fantasies, New York University Press, New York. BRP ‘Bench by the Road Project’, viewed 21 July 2018, ­.



Butler, J 1990, Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of gender, Routledge, New York. Chan, S 2007, ‘The Abner Louima case, 10 years later’, The New York Times 9 August, viewed 15 February 2018, . CNN 1999, ‘30-year sentence for N.Y. policeman in torture of black man’, 13 December, viewed 15 February 2018, . Le code noir, 1685, . Cole, J 2005, ‘Intimate acts and unspeakable relations: remembering torture and the war for Algerian independence’, in Hargreaves AG (ed.), Memory, empire, and postcolonialism: legacies of French colonialism, Lexington, Lanham, MD, pp. 125–41. Collins, H 2015, ‘Towards a “Brave new world”: tracing the emergence of creolization in Maryse Condé’s canonical rewritings’, Women in French Studies, vol. 23, pp. 69–84. Compagnon, A 1992, ‘La Recherche du temps perdu, de Marcel Proust’, in Nora P (ed.), Les lieux de mémoire, vol. 3, pt. 2, Gallimard, Paris, pp. 926–67. Condé, M 1986, Moi, Tituba, sorcière… Noire de Salem, Mercure de France, Paris. Condé, M 1992, I, Tituba, black witch of Salem, trans. Philcox, R, University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville. Durand, G 1992, ‘La vigne et le vin’, in Nora P (ed.), Les lieux de mémoire, vol. 3, pt. 2, Gallimard, Paris, pp. 784–821. Fanon, F 1952, Peau noire, masques blancs, Seuil, Paris. Fanon, F 1967, Black skin, white masks, trans. Markmann CL, Grove, New York. Garane, J 1995, ‘History, identity and the constitution of the female subject: Maryse Condé’s Titibua’, in Davies CB (ed.), Moving beyond boundaries, vol. 2, Black women’s diasporas, Pluto Press, London, pp. 153–64. Gauthier, M 2010, ‘Historical figures transformed: French enterprise and I, Tituba, black witch of Salem’, in Frus P & Williams C (eds.), Beyond adaptation: essays on radical transformations of original works, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, pp. 42–55. Glover, KL 2011, ‘Tituba’s fall: Maryse Condé’s counter-narrative of the female slave’, Contemporary French Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 99–106. Guillaumin, C 1972, Idéologie raciste: genèse et langage actuel, Mouton, La Haye. Gyssells, K 2006, ‘On the untranslatability of Tituba Indian: an intercultural subject’, in Barbour S & Herndon G (eds.), Emerging perspectives on Maryse Condé, Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ, pp. 63–86.



Hansen, J 1974, ‘The metamorphosis of Tituba, or why American intellectuals can’t tell an Indian witch from a Negro’, The New England Quarterly. Vol. 47, no. 1, pp. 3–12. Hartley-Parkinson, R 2017, ‘Man “raped” with police truncheon was “accidentally sodomised when his trousers fell down”’, Metro Times, 10 February, viewed 26 February 2018, . Jalalzai, Z 2009, ‘Historical fiction and Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, black witch of Salem’, African American Review, vol. 43, no. 2/3, pp. 413–25. Lazreg, M 2008, Torture and the twilight of empire: from Algiers to Baghdad, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Mann, H 2005, ‘Locating colonial histories: between France and West Africa’, The American Historical Review, vol. 110, no. 2, pp. 409–34. Marcus, S 1992, ‘Fighting bodies, fighting words: a theory and politics of rape prevention’, in Butler J & Scott JW (eds.), Feminists theorize the political, Routledge, New York, pp. 385–403. Miller, A 1953 [1966], The crucible, Secker & Warburg, London. Morrison, T 1989, ‘A bench by the road’, UU World, January–February, reprinted 11 August 2008, . Mudimbé-Boyi, E 1993, ‘Giving a voice to Tituba: the death of the author’, World Literature Today, vol. 67, no. 4, pp. 751–56. Nora, P (ed.) 1984–1992, Les lieux de mémoire, 3 vols., Gallimard, Paris. Phillip, A 2017, ‘Trump names Rudy Giuliani as cybersecurity advisor’, The Washington Post, 12 January, viewed 18 February 2018, . Prost, A 1984, ‘Les monuments aux morts: culte républicain? culte civique? culte patriotique?' in Nora P (ed.), Les lieux de mémoire, vol. 1, Gallimard, Paris, pp. 1995–2225. Roszak, S 2014, ‘Salem rewritten again: Arthur Miller, Maryse Condé, and appropriating the Bildungsroman’, Comparative Literature, vol. 66, no. 1, pp. 113–26. Sartre, J-P 1954, Réflexions sur la question juive, Gallimard, Paris. Sartre, J-P 1965, Anti-Semite and Jew, trans. Becker GJ, Schocken, New York. Simmons, KM 2014, Changing the subject: writing women across the African diaspora, Ohio State University Press, Columbus. Sullivan, M 2017, ‘Au ban de la société, à la frontière de l’Amérique: les sorcières et les marginaux dans Moi, Tituba sorcière… de Maryse Condé’, Voix plurielles, vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 72–85. Tamiozzo, J 2002, ‘L’altérité et l’identité dans Moi, Tituba, sorcière… noire de Salem, de Maryse Condé’, Migrations, vol. 15, no. 2, pp. 123–40.



Tayeb-Khyar, MB 1991, ‘An interview with Maryse Condé and Rita Dove’, Callaloo, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 347–66. Thomas, JR 2006, ‘Talking the cross-talk of histories in Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, black witch of Salem’, in Barbour S & Herndon G (eds.), Emerging perspectives on Maryse Condé: a writer on her own, Africa World Press, Trenton, NJ, pp. 87–104. Waddell, HW 2003, ‘Breaking the metronome: community and song in Condé’s Moi, Tituba, sorcière… noire de Salem’, in Salhi K (ed.), Francophone post-­ colonial cultures: critical essays, Lexington, Lanham, pp. 153–65. White, AB 2013, ‘From Africa to America by way of the Caribbean: fictionalized histories of the African diasporic slave woman’s presence in the Americas in I, Tituba, black witch of Salem and A mercy,’ in Marsh-Lockett CP & West EJ (eds.), Literary expressions of African spirituality, Lexington, Landham, MD, pp. 145–60. Wittig, M 1992, The straight mind and other essays, Beacon, Boston.


Traumatic Representations


Humanitarian Journalism and the Representation of Survivors of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Mass Violence Tiania Stevens

Journalists bear witness both to the horrific acts of which human beings are capable, and the remarkable strength we possess in the face of such events. Journalism practice possesses an unavoidable ethical dimension, not simply due to its role as a witness to human strength and weakness, but also due to the ease with which journalism is capable of inflicting damage on those it represents. This is a difficult issue for journalists to face. In this chapter I argue that, in some cases, journalistic representation inadvertently re-traumatises survivors of mass violence despite its often-­ laudable intentions. Journalists can also ignore the significance of the places of traumatic memory for survivors. These places often have deep meaning in the difficult and repeated negotiation these people conduct between past and present, memory and forgetting, and trauma and recovery. As I shall demonstrate, in the worst of these cases, such representation can entirely separate survivors of mass violence from the hard-won reality

T. Stevens (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




of their rebuilt lives. In this chapter I examine one journalistic approach, humanitarian journalism, which attempts an empathetic engagement with, and representation of, survivors of mass atrocities. I focus on stories about the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and its aftermath, and how elements of humanitarian journalism might be incorporated into journalism practice. I first examine Bunce et al.’s (2019) view of humanitarian journalism and contrast it with an example of journalistic practice that has a purported ‘humanitarian’ intent, but which causes harm to the person it represents. As both a scholar of journalism and an experienced reporter, I frame the core value of journalism, both as a discipline and a practice, to be humanitarian. I then turn to Time magazine’s 1992 front-page photograph of Fikret Alić, standing emaciated in front of barbed-wire at Trnopolje concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and discuss the nearly three-decade impact this image has had on him. I use an example of one British tabloid newspaper’s treatment of Fikret following his release from the camp and ask: despite its laudable intention to act as a means for witnessing both horror and human strength, how, and why, does the media sometimes serve to further traumatise its subjects? In the final part of the chapter, I suggest adjustments to journalism practice, including in the representation of its subjects, which might lessen some of its harmful effects.

Day-Tripping into Srebrenica’s Painful Past The difficulties concerning the media’s representation of survivors of mass violence is rarely more visible than at the mass burial event that takes place each 11 July in the small mountain enclave of Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over the past 23  years, Srebrenica has been a subject of international media focus due to the 1995 genocide by the Bosnian Serb forces of over 8000 men and boys. Forced onto buses outside the former United Nations (UN) Dutch base in Potočari, these people were driven off for execution. More than 1000 victims are still missing. Every year, on 11 July, the bodies of those found during the previous year are interred (Wagner 2008; see also Stover and Peress 1998). Over the years, I have received numerous invitations from returnees to Srebrenica and survivor organisations to attend these interments, and I have consistently turned them down. The easy excuse to give for this was that my research was focussed on other areas of the country. The



substantive reason, however, was the discomfort I felt at the idea of being present at such a personal, painful event. When I imagined myself watching mothers finally burying their sons, over two decades since they lost them, I could only feel that I would be ‘day-tripping into someone else’s nightmare’, to borrow British war correspondent Anthony Loyd’s (1999, p. 36) description of his own experience of too-intimate contact with the pain of others. Each 11 July, Srebrenica plays host not just to the families of the recovered victims of the genocide, and to the wider Srebrenica diaspora, but to politicians, the world’s media, and gawping backpackers. By chance, my fieldwork took me to Srebrenica in the early part of July 2018. The invitation on this occasion came from Maja, who out of fear of reprisals, asked for her name and job title to be withheld, and being already in Srebrenica, I felt unable to politely decline. And so I found myself standing in the rain with a group of others, awaiting a truck carrying the remains of 35 newly identified victims of the genocide to arrive from Sarajevo. The burials were scheduled for the following day. When the truck arrived, dozens crowded around it to help unload the coffins. I followed the crowd to the dilapidated warehouse into which the coffins were being carried. Here I saw something that made me reassess my view of the media’s role in these annual burials. I saw a female journalist approach a weeping mother who had waited 23 years to bury her child. The journalist knelt over the tiny coffin and pushed her microphone into the elderly woman’s face (Fig. 10.1). This scene raises important questions not simply about the nature of journalism practice in general—the mechanics of how one obtains a story—but more importantly about the nature of humanitarian journalism. My immediate reaction to this was disgust at the intrusion of the reporter into the elderly woman’s grief. Yet the difficulty of this scene, and particularly the role of the media, is surely far more complex than my first response suggests. The reporter’s actions in kneeling over the coffin were undeniably crass. The microphone was undeniably an intrusion. Yet the event was a public one and, more to the point, the issue—acts of genocide, the mass murder of our fellow humans, including children—undeniably is a humanitarian one. Journalists face tremendous ethical difficulties, particularly when their work pertains to highly emotive, strongly humanitarian issues such as conflicts and their aftermath. They are required to negotiate between the crucial journalistic values of detachment and objectivity and the powerful humanitarian claims made on them by individual stories. The difficulty in such cases is all the more acute when those stories



Fig. 10.1  The media interview survivors of Srebrenica’s genocide inside the warehouse where thirty-five coffins in Potočari warehouse await burial on 11 July 2018. (Photo by author)



encapsulate the urgency and importance of the practice of journalism itself. The key is to do so without exacerbating the pain of people already wounded and represent the occasion in a way that does not inflict further violence upon them. The dilemma for survivors, such as teenager Maja, whose father and grandfather, more than 20 cousins, and her best friend were forced onto buses outside the UN base at Potočari and driven away to be killed, is their difficult relation with the media. On one hand, Maja describes the presence of media at the annual burial and memorial as ‘our window to the rest of the world’; on the other, she is conflicted, ‘I would not say that we are happy about [the media], but also we know that it is the best way to tell the rest of the world about what happened to us here’.1 When the media and diaspora leave Srebrenica following the end of the annual mass burial and memorial, Maja says she feels ‘empty … we are a good story in July’. In short, I realised that I was witnessing the first stages of the annual media spectacle at Srebrenica. But I also realised that the news media, particularly journalists concerned with humanitarian journalism, needed to be there. The reporters were adding to the historical record of experience, and survival, of tragedy. The Srebrenica memorial gives survivors a voice, however small, as they negotiate their contemporary life and come to terms with what it is to share their testimony and live in a community of shared trauma (Ahmed and Jackie 2001, p.  2). Therefore, how can stories about the post-war lives of survivors of mass violence be represented empathetically in journalism practice, in what Dawes describes as ‘humanitarian story telling’ (2007, pp. 8–12)? Can humanitarian journalism suggest ways to avoid harming the subjects of journalism’s stories?

The Scope of Humanitarian Journalism According to Dawes (2007, p. 10), news media’s representation of survivors of mass violence habitually ‘filter out certain kinds of reporting’, removes them from their present context and presents them as victims of the past. The published narrative, which may even include edited extracts from the person’s own testimony, is built solely around what Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2009, p.  1) describes as ‘a single story [and] if you show people as one thing, only one thing, over and over, that is what they become’. The way survivors’ stories are represented and disseminated by the media can have serious consequences when those we



set out to give a voice to are misrepresented or underrepresented. Downman and Ubayasiri (2017, p. 169) argue that humanitarian journalism ‘for the most part, is based on good intentions … but sometimes good intentions don’t translate into good practice’. While working ‘against a backdrop of diversity, vulnerability and complexity’, Downman and Ubayasiri (2017, p.  169) suggest reporters are burdened with a great responsibility to report fairly, accurately and with care when too often they are untrained in the complexity of humanitarian journalism. They further suggest that this lack of knowledge can have a catastrophic impact on a survivor’s well-being and ‘in a worst case, can lead to the media inflicting their own trauma on those affected by human rights abuses’ (Downman and Ubayasiri 2017, p. 169). As such, humanitarianism journalism is not merely a focus on humanitarian issues but a practice in support of them. However, such an interpretation of the role of humanitarian journalism is far from being universally accepted. Bunce et  al. (2019, p.  2) offer a general definition of humanitarian journalism, namely ‘the production and distribution of factual accounts of crises, events and issues relating to human welfare’. They then distinguish two different approaches to this general conception of journalistic activity: (1) Humanitarian journalism as a subset of traditional journalism, in which one reports factual accounts relating to ‘humanitarian issues’; and (2) Humanitarian journalism as a subset of the tradition of humanitarianism, meaning such journalism ‘aims to alleviate suffering and improve human welfare’ (Bunce et al. 2019, pp. 2–3).2 The key to this second approach is that of action and intent on the part of the journalist. The intent is to help, to ease the suffering of those one reports upon. This is journalism as a tool for direct, positive intervention in the world, rather than the mere factual reporting on the state of it. As Bunce et al. (2019, p. 3) point out, this second approach ‘places humanitarian journalism under the broad umbrella of advocacy journalism that includes movements such as peace journalism and solutions journalism: journalism that aims to improve or progress social wellbeing’. Bunce et  al. (2019, p.  2) make a number of cogent observations about the complex and highly contested nature of humanitarian journalism: ‘Both of its key concepts—“humanitarianism” and “journalism”—can be controversial, with definitions that have evolved over time and that vary across cultures and organisations’. For example, what focus should the work of humanitarianism take? They posit, ‘Some argue that a crisis must be an urgent emergency [that is, in contrast to a chronic problem, such as poverty] to count as a “humanitarian issue”,



others believe it is their responsibility to address the root causes of human suffering’ (Bunce et al. 2019, p. 2). These issues are complicated when humanitarian journalism is considered. Bunce et al. (2019) point out that while humanitarianism tends to think of itself, among other things, as striving to get at (in order to alleviate) the truth of a situation, many journalists are wary of the notion that the discovery of truth (as something objective and untouched by bias or perspective) is even possible. The concept of journalism as a form of humanitarian advocacy both seems strongly ‘correct’ to those moved by the suffering of others and potentially extremely dangerous to journalists concerned with maintaining professional integrity. The distortion of facts must be avoided at all costs, no matter how emotionally affecting or ethically urgent the topic. The danger of such involvement by the journalist in the ‘human’ nature of their stories is highlighted by former BBC reporter Martin Bell’s notion of the ‘journalism of attachment’. For Bell (1995, p. 128), journalists who advocate for a ‘cares as well as knows’ practice discern the moral core of a situation, and act in favour of those considered to be oppressed and afflicted. In Bell’s (1995) view, reporters have a moral obligation to distinguish between those actors who are victims and those who are the perpetrators and, if necessary, to take sides. The humanitarian, advocacy-led model of journalism that Bell (1995) offers risks alienating those striving to work within the ethical bounds of journalism practice. It also risks breaking the ethical codes set up to prevent those in the field getting too close to those who are desperate for help. Shaw (2012, p. 26), who advocates for journalists to document war crimes and support, or act as, witness testimony, risks alienating those working within the ethical bounds of journalism practice. Rather, Shaw’s description of humanitarian journalism is a contrast between traditional journalism that is deficient in ‘promot [ing] public knowledge and understanding of issues and a broader human rights approach to reporting’ (2012, p. 2). Shaw’s latter point (2012, p. 2) clearly evidences camp survivors like Fikret Alić, who finds himself caught between his desire for privacy and the pursuit of a normal life and a need to bear witness to the camp system in which he was incarcerated during the 1990s in Bosnia. However, in my view, the representation of Fikret’s story is a damaging one. It appears not to have alleviated his suffering and in fact, Fikret arguably is trapped in the role of ‘victim’. The journalists may have thought they were approaching Fikret’s story in humanitarian terms, but in practice the effect has been to undermine that ambition by increasing pain and presenting a distorted account of Fikret himself.



Still Not Free: Fikret Alić and the Imprisoning Nature of Journalistic Representation In their own way, the post-war, post-concentration camp experiences of Bosnian Muslim men are as challenging to understand as their wartime struggles. Certain survivors seem to have an ambiguous, conflicted relationship with their past, and with the media’s portrayal of that past. Compounding this difficult relation between past, present and future in the lives of survivors is their representation by the media, which often portrays them solely through the lens of the past. For survivors of mass violence, a valuable part of the process of rebuilding their lives and looking to the future is, paradoxically, bearing witness to their experiences during wartime. As a vehicle for such witnessing, proponents of humanitarian storytelling advocate giving survivors of mass violence a voice, to present testimony. Others argue from different positions. Despite championing humanitarian storytelling, Whitlock (2015) warns that the implications for those journalists who do this without due consideration for survivors have the: Power to create spectators of suffering who engage empathetically with terrible events. It generates compassion and benevolence and elicits donor support. At the same time, it can be called to account for the part it plays in representing communities and people as inhabitants of a ‘developing world’, and as subjects of ‘distant suffering’ offered for western benevolence and spectatorship. (2015, p. 110)

Perhaps nowhere did Whitlock’s Western benevolence and spectatorship receive as much attention as the image splashed across the front page of Time magazine, showing Fikret Alić standing behind barbed wire inside Trnopolje concentration camp in Bosnia in 1992 (Fig. 10.2). It was he who British Guardian reporter Ed Vulliamy (1994, p. 104) described as having a ‘xylophone rib cage’. Reporters, including Vulliamy, gained access to Trnopolje camp and were filmed interviewing prisoners. News reports following their visit suggest that a number of prisoners were killed after risking their life to speak to the media. Dawes (2007) notes that reporters at Trnopolje that day made choices that are not uncommon but still might ‘mark the extreme end of the ethical spectrum … if there was any moral anxiety it derived from the fact that there were real bodies



Fig. 10.2  Fikret Alić standing behind barbed wire at Trnopolje concentration camp in Bosnia and Herzegovina, video footage taken on 6 August 1992 by ITN News. (Photo published in Time magazine, 17 August 1992)



behind the words, specific people who could feel exposed, ashamed, exploited’ (2007, p. 187). This image of Fikret was originally part of 11 seconds of British ITN video footage taken on 6 August 1992. It was subsequently turned into a freeze-frame grab. The image’s trajectory, from the camp to the front cover of Time magazine within days of it being taken, also inadvertently demonstrates how otherwise laudable journalistic practice can have a powerfully negative effect on those who are caught up in that representation.3 The media’s use and interpretation of the photograph helped to highlight the atrocities taking place in BiH at the time. However, while the image became world famous, Fikret Alić, the man at its centre, did not. Looking much older than his 22 years, Fikret’s image was captured when he was at his lowest point, stood skeletal behind barbed wire. Yet he was, and is, a survivor of Bosnia’s war. Nonetheless, his life has become fused to this image, seemingly bound forever to this minute slice of time, itself extracted from a mere 11 seconds of footage. Sontag (2003) argues that since the aim of a photograph is to capture a moment in time, all photography may be thought of as an act of fixation, the preservation of a minute slice of experience from the oblivion it would otherwise pass into. That is, Sontag (2003, pp.  70–71) cautions: ‘Harrowing photographs do not inevitably lose their power to shock. But they are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand. Photographs, do something else: they haunt us’. Liss (1998, p. xi) also warns not to step too far into the ‘realm of ghosts and photographs’, as they can ‘inevitably trespass into the sites and traces of death, of lives effaced, of genocide’. However, Kozol (2014, p. 26) disagrees and counters that trespassing into someone else’s pain is sometimes inevitable and that there is moral value in taking photographs of victims, such as Fikret, and that often images of suffering are the only access for outsiders. There are other images of emaciated and starving men taken that day that could have been used by the media to represent the war. Yet it was this image, published around the world, that turned one man’s private suffering into a public spectacle of human degradation. Time and News Week ran with the image on their front pages. The English word ‘spectacle’ is derived from the Latin specio, meaning ‘I look at’ or ‘I observe’. For a person already suffering from some of the worst acts humans can inflict upon each other, Fikret’s personal and private agony was turned into a spectacle, something for all to look at. His image became an image of



human pain in general, a spectacle returned to over and over. Hesford (2011, p. 16) suggests that a ‘spectacular’ image does not warrant intrusive staring but a carefully considered analysis of the ‘construction of the conditions that individuate, immobilize, and separate subjects, even within a world in which mobility and circulation are ubiquitous’. When employed as a tool in the journalist’s effort to bring to light crimes of profound gravity, photography’s preservative action has unparalleled value as a means of documenting evidence before its perpetrators can erase it. Yet, for all the arguable moral importance of this kind of documenting of injustice, photographic journalism is also capable of injuring the very people it aims to protect. This potential injury is encapsulated by the haunting image of Fikret with which those consuming news media in 1992 would be familiar.

The Spectacle That Is Fikret Alić I met with Fikret in July 2015. If I had passed him on the street, he would be hard to recognise. He is no longer the emaciated man who was thrust in the media spotlight more than two decades ago. As we talked, he refused to look up. His face stayed firmly staring at the tiled floor. Yet there was in him a determination, even defiance, to tell his story. But this was not the story of the camps but of his life following his release from Trnopolje. Sitting with Fikret, it is easy to view him through the lens of camp victim. That was all I knew about this man before I interviewed him in person: he was the man behind the barbed wire. But Fikret is so much more than that, because Fikret survived. Thousands did not. Today, Fikret wants you to know that he is someone other than an image: The biggest issue is that everyone’s calling me a symbol, but I don’t understand what it means to be the symbol. I thought, the symbol was someone would bring peace to this country. As far as I can understand, there is no peace in this country, with thousands of dead, thousands of photos. For me, that’s no symbol, but a disgrace for people they are turning into the symbol, without changing a single thing.4

Fikret says he carries the feelings of fear, apprehension and relief with him. The media’s repeated presence in his life only helps to highlight what he feels is his loss of freedom. Once the media left Trnopolje camp, Fikret went into hiding in the camp. The attention he received from the media was enough, he said, to cost him his life. When the journalists left



Trnopolje, Fikret did not. His incarceration continued. He had no knowledge that an image of his emaciated body had found its way onto the front pages of some of the most famous magazine covers and newspapers in the world. He did not know that the image had sparked a debate on the atrocities being committed in BiH and the lack of action taken by world leaders. Fikret’s image raised memories of the Nazi concentration camps with the words Never Again splashed across newspaper headlines. He recounts how nine men at Trnopolje were killed for talking to the journalists on this day. Fikret was essentially used as ‘an equivalent form of voiceless speech’ to represent other victims of the Bosnian War (Zelizer and Tenenboim-Weinblatt 2014, p. 131). The image thereby became a kind of silent voice with every publication of the photograph. Yet while Fikret’s image took on a career trajectory of its own, Fikret the man, was fighting to stay alive. During an interview with Ed Vulliamy a few months after his release from Trnopolje in November 1992, Fikret spoke about the imprisoning effect of the photograph: ‘I hated seeing the picture of myself. I couldn’t believe I had been through that and survived and was now free … I am disappointed to see that picture and to be able to say that I am a free man’ (Vulliamy 1994, pp. 203–4). The nature of the image of Fikret was therefore, from the outset, complex: produced from laudable, arguably ‘humanitarian’ intentions, it also wounded the man it represented. Fikret had no control over the use of his image. Bull (2010, p. 121) argues that the media will take a photograph and fit it ‘into predetermined narratives of attack, victims, enemies, and retaliation, the meanings of each picture being directed according to the story required at any given moment’. The photograph of the prisoners at Trnopolje looked as if they were penned behind a barbed wire fence and the international media seized the symbolic image that Taylor argues was ‘frame grabbed’ at the time as an emotive way to back claims that Bosnian Muslim men were being held in Nazi-style concentration camps (Taylor 1998, p. 61). The headlines (7 August 1992) of UK publications the Star and Daily Mirror headlines both used the words ‘Belsen’, while the Daily Mail’s headline was ‘The Proof’ that Europe was witnessing atrocities not seen since World War II. The UK Times was less definite in its caption: ‘Behind barbed wire: emaciated and despairing inmates of the camp at Trnopolje, Bosnia, are offered solace by a visiting television crew’. The Times accused the Serbian forces of executions and beatings in its prison camps, which the Serbs were accused of trying to keep secret. Vulliamy’s front- and back-page report in the UK Guardian did not focus on Fikret,



instead concentrating on the ‘starvation and human rights abuses being inflicted on the captured’. As I interview him in 2015, Fikret is sitting down, eyes gazed at the floor, talking about the photograph that turned him from an ordinary man into a spectacle. Interestingly, Fikret describes the image as ‘disrespectful to survivors’.5 The photograph is used over and over again by the media, as a kind of shorthand for ‘the war and the atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia’. The effect of this, argues Zelizer (1998, p.  209), is that the ‘atrocity behind the image is effectively depoliticized. The picture becomes the evidence of the general human condition. It accuses nobody and everybody.’ The context is lost, along with the man whose image the photograph bears. As I ask Fikret to consider the impact of that photograph nearly 20 years after it was taken, he struggles to make eye contact. He does not want to talk, but eventually he does. ‘Obligated’ is the word he uses to describe his relationship with the news media. He speaks with regret: with ‘a pain in my belly’, he says. It is plain that his relation to the news media is at best conflicted. Mostly, he says, he wants freedom—freedom from the image, which he also knows is responsible for a great deal of good in the world: As long as the world is the way it is with torture and war, that picture will always be with me, as long as there is hate and hell in the world, I will love that photo because it is a sign of what people go through, but as long as there is hell that picture will haunt me.6

Although physically free from the camp, Fikret the man is not. He was, and is, living with two identities: one the living man of today and tomorrow, for whom the camps are a piece of his past, two, the timeless Fikret of the ITN image, the Fikret of Time magazine. He is a victim of that image, just as he was a victim of the Serbian forces and the wider conflict; ‘as cameras do, this click of the shutter froze a moment in history’ (Chong 2000, p. vii). As much his actual appearance changes, Fikret will forever be emaciated and incarcerated. The two identities of Fikret are not fully or coherently separable. The ITN image has a weight and power all of its own. For these survivors, witnessing appears to be an unavoidable aspect of their post-­ conflict lives. Like many individuals who lived through the war in the former Yugoslavia, Fikret feels a strong need to bear witness to his experiences. This need involves him in a complex and seemingly painful relation



to his past. Fikret is torn between his dislike and regret of the image and his desire not to fully escape from the past so that he might still bear witness to and honour those who perished in the camps. Fikret’s image embodied the violence unleashed on thousands of military-age men who were incarcerated in Bosnia’s camps. The photograph revealed the existence of the camps and the inhumane treatment of the Muslim men and women held in them. However, the photo also demonstrates the extent to which a single image is capable of turning an ordinary human being into an involuntary spectacle of agony.7 In Fikret we perhaps see the general dilemma faced by many witnesses of atrocity. We see these people’s complex relation to the past as well as to the news media which helps them bear witness. Following the end of the war in 1995, the world’s media left Bosnia. From this point, news editors instead chose to publish the image of Fikret to reference ethnic cleansing or other historical events in Bosnia, as well as human rights abuses around the world (Taylor 1998, p. 61). Sontag (1977, p. 14) claims that to take the photograph of another person is to ‘violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; [photography thereby] turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed’. It is not difficult to see how this claim might describe the effect it had on Fikret. With his private suffering seized by the camera and purveyed worldwide as a symbol of Europe’s regression into barbarism, it is tempting to interpret this image as one of violation par excellence. This violation arguably extends to the tendency photography has, as Webber (1995) claims, to foster the belief that the viewer enjoys privileged access to that which is represented. The act of taking photographs of atrocity, argues Webber (1995, p. 10), encourages the viewer to ‘ignore the medium of representation and assume that it gives us unmediated access to the past’. We are tempted to assume that the photograph has seized and preserved a reality we have an unproblematic access to, rather than—as is in fact the case—capturing only one facet of a reality, as much internal as external, and entirely unreachable by any lens. Photographs, however, ‘[are] plagued by the usual ills’ affecting every other artefact in the world: ‘they disappear; they become valuable, and get bought and sold, they are reproduced’ (Sontag 1977, p. 4). This recreation seems particularly problematic. The issue with Fikret the image is that Fikret the man is unable, even more than two decades after his release, to escape that day in the camp, he is fused to the photograph and, as such, is tied to time, which



Taylor (1998, p. 62) accuses photography of: ‘bearing the work and death, pausing to freeze, mummify [and] corpse-ify whatever body they capture or pose’. Rather than containing the full thickness of lived reality, photographs are merely ‘neat slice of time’ (Sontag 1977, p. 17). And, in Fikret’s case, that time does not change. Insofar as he is an image as well as a living man, he remains forever the man behind the barbed wire (Zelizer 1998, p. 211). The problem of photography as a medium capable of inflicting damage on those it represents goes to the heart of the risks inherent in the practice of humanitarian journalism. The British tabloid, The Sun, recently returned to Fikret’s story in a manner that ensured it became a darkly perfect illustration of Sontag’s argument regarding a person’s ‘symbolic possess[ion]’ by the media. The Sun is not known for its humanitarian coverage; occasionally, however, they support humanitarian journalism causes in a broad sense, including the Help for Heroes charity which provides support to service men and women. At the time of writing The Sun is also running a campaign to raise awareness of male suicide, the You’re Not Alone campaign. The Sun newspaper’s attempt to recreate the camp image was, according to Zelizer and Tenenboim-Weinblatt, essentially ‘a thin slice of a larger event’ (2014, p. 133). The photograph shows not just the potential danger of how an iconic image can ‘loom too large in a society’s view of the past’ (2014, pp.  132–33), but how journalists, purportedly acting with ‘humanitarian’ motives, can achieve quite the opposite (Fig. 10.3). The recreation of the iconic image in 2008 by a British tabloid photographer signals Fikret’s ongoing exploitation and objectification. Juxtapose the two images and there is no better example of Fikret’s continued ‘imprisonment’ by the Time magazine image than having him return to the past and pose for a photograph that recreates everything that was barbaric. Sliwinski (2011, pp. 121–22) suggests that ‘one’s imagination has the capacity to animate the scene’. In this context, particularly with The Sun’s juxtaposition of this image with its Time magazine ‘original’, the viewer is encouraged not to view Fikret as the successful survivor of atrocity, but again simply as a shorthand for torture and abuse. The effect of this photograph of Fikret is to strip him of the dignity of survival. The great achievement of having rebuilt his life after release from the camps is instantly discarded. The Sun’s image returns him immediately to his past, re-attaching him to his ‘parallel life’ as an image of atrocity. And all this is done under the purported direction of a certain ‘humanitarian’, ‘human



Fig. 10.3  Fikret Alić posing behind a fence in the same position he was photographed/filmed on 6 August 1992 by ITN News. (Photo by The Sun, 31 July 2012)

issue’ practice of journalism. For The Sun’s photographer, Peter Jordan, to pose Fikret in the same manner and location as he stood in 1992 was effectively to ‘participate [again] in [Fikret’s] mortality, vulnerability [and] mutability’ (Sontag 1977, p. 15). It maintains him as the prisoner of an image; it is the opposite of a humanitarian act. Rather, Fikret is not only returned to the place of trauma, his memories of that time are retold over-­ and-­over again through the journalists’ own biased narrative. Immense caution must be exercised whenever news media actors attempt to intervene in situations of human drama and suffering, situations that invariably are extremely complex, unstable, and easily inflamed. There are reasons why ethical guidelines are in place to protect those most vulnerable from being misrepresented, for the vulnerable are easily damaged further, regardless of the good intentions of the journalists involved. Shaw’s description of humanitarian journalism suggests that a deficiency exists in ‘promot[ing] public knowledge and understanding of issues and a broader human rights



approach to reporting’ (2012, p. 25). Yet this approach does not consider the broader concerns of crossing ethical lines to report atrocity. The assertion that humanitarian journalism is only possible when it is reported with a ‘human touch’ (2012, p.  25), risks retraumatising and isolating those persons already damaged. Fikret is one such person: That photo didn’t change anything in my life. To this day, I regret being in that photo. Everyone around the world thinks that the fact I’m in the photo means I’m living off that photo. I have nothing from that photo. Everything I have in life, I got through my own work. And that photo, it’s just a photo of tortured people everybody turned their backs on.8

Conclusion: Forgotten Voices in the One Story Narrative Journalism of advocacy is laudable in intent and potentially catastrophic in effect. The use of images of human suffering is fraught with difficulty for sufferers and journalists alike. Journalists reporting on conflicts or crises are under extraordinary pressure to document stories in a fair and unbiased way, while simultaneously listening to strangers tell stories of suffering and trauma. Someone who has not reported on war is unable to appreciate fully the immense effect (and toll taken) on the journalist who listens sometimes to hours of testimony documenting violence and violations (Downman and Ubayasiri 2017, p. 169). There will always be times when the boundaries of ethical reporting become blurred. This chapter does not criticise those journalists who feel a moral obligation to act when witnessing or learning of inhumane treatment. Nonetheless, the practitioners of journalism (and in concert with them, scholars of the profession) must find reliable means to avoid damaging the profession and undermining confidence in the reporting of deeply important issues through an appearance of bias. The example of the journalistic re-imprisoning of Fikret Alić can serve as a case study in how, and to some extent why, humanitarian journalism can go astray from its original, laudable motivations. Journalism betrays both its subjects and itself when it retraumatises the traumatised and effectively imprisons those now ‘free’. Sontag’s (1977, p.  14) ‘symbolic possess[ion]’ by the media is an illustration of how Fikret’s narrative is used by the media as ‘the single story [narrative which] robs people of their dignity and emphasises their difference rather than recognising the



similarity between people’ (Adichie 2009). More so, Adichie (2009), recognises the importance of a full narrative of the person’s story, not just a back story of traumatic memories. In Fikret’s case, ‘the single story create[d] [a] stereotype, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue. But that they are incomplete. They make one story become of the only story’ (Adichie 2009). Hariman and Lucaites, quoted in Zelizer and Tenenboim-Weinblatt (2014, p. 131), argue, ‘you cannot take a photograph of the past. This simple fact alters the relationship between journalism and collective memory. Journalism may be the “first draft of history”’. Journalists are too often constrained by their (and their industry’s) concern for a narrative which is dramatic, spectacular and—to use the vernacular of the industry itself—‘sexy’. The obvious objection to such a focus is that it risks a slide toward the sensational. The more important point, however, is that focusing on the spectacular risks a lack of concern for, even an ignoring of, the banal, mundane and undramatic problems of human beings. Yet these problems are usually the predominant concerns of most survivors. War and famine, concentration camps and political oppression are important issues, but arguably no less so than mental health problems, suicide, a lack of confidence in the justice system, suspicion of journalists and news media, and the kind of isolation and despair that results from ineffectual social and political systems. The journalism of humanitarianism and advocacy fails its own principles when it allows itself to overlook those who struggle daily with such problems. When dealing with traumatised individuals, the ethical concerns are even greater. The scene I witnessed at the annual Srebrenica burial event is a case in point. The story was a profoundly humanitarian one: genocide is of urgent concern to all human beings. Yet the way the journalist approached the woman, kneeling across her child’s coffin to poke a microphone into her face, was offensive, as likely to produce a rejection and a desire never to speak to the press as it was to ‘get the story’. Just as with the case of Fikret Alić, this was, for me, an instructive moment. The journalist is time and again required to make a decision whether or not to intrude into the pain or privacy of their subjects. Ultimately, this is a judgement call that is unique to each situation. The decision must be made when an action amounts to an intrusion, and when it does not. In fact, such in-the-moment decision-making only highlights how vital is the ethical and professional training given to journalists (Downman and Ubayasiri 2017, p. 169). The point about intrusion is, of course, apposite



to both the example of the bereaved woman at Srebrenica and the case of Fikret Alić. Finally, as exemplified by the ‘imprisoning’ nature of the Time magazine image of Fikret Alić, the representation of the subjects of journalism, whether in word, image or any other form, must never be the occasion for further harm or the distortion of the truth the subject wishes to convey. This is, of course, an axiom for all journalism, but as The Sun’s representation of Fikret proves, it is an axiom at least occasionally overridden. This final point connects to the three previous points. A finished story can sometimes be a violation of privacy or a distortion of the truth. The context in which the subject recounts their story returns them to their past trauma—as with the case of Fikret, stood topless outside his former place of torture and confinement—and can inflict further trauma, or rob the subject of their dignity in some manner. And sometimes, precisely like with Fikret, with his struggles with mental ill-health, cynicism toward the national and international systems of justice, and so on, the story itself is not a spectacle or a drama, but no less an issue of deep ‘humanitarian’ importance. Dedication  For my daughter Molly who supported me during the writing of this chapter and who wants to be a journalist, telling the stories of those who are unable to do so themselves. I’d also like to thank Dr. Annie Pohlman who during the toughest moments of writing this chapter could always make me laugh.

Notes 1. Interview with Maja via Facebook Messenger, recorded with permission, 9 November 2018. 2. A similar point is made by Dawes (2007, p. 7), who suggests that there are two types of people who report stories, those who listen and are content to document storytelling, and those who feel compelled to act on what they see and hear. 3. The Trnopolje camp was established by the military and police authorities of the Bosnian Serb forces, centred on the village of Trnopolje, near Prijedor in northern Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Between 4000 and 7000 inmates (Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats) were detained there at any one time. The camp also operated as a base for the mass deportations of captured



persons. Mistreatment of the prisoner population was widespread and notorious. Numerous instances of murder, torture and rape have been recorded. 4. Interview with Fikret Alić, recorded with permission, Kozarac, 7 July 2015. 5. Ibid. 6. Ibid. 7. Google searches of the terms ‘Bosnian atrocity’, ‘Bosnian camps’, ‘Bosnian genocide’ immediately return Fikret’s image. Type in ‘Omarska’, a camp in which Fikret was not even incarcerated, and his image on the front cover of Time magazine appears, as well as taking the third, fourth and fifth spot on the top line of results. 8. See Note 4 above.

References Adichie, CN 2009, ‘The danger of a single story’, TED talk, viewed 16 November 2018, single_story. Ahmed, S & Jackie, S 2001, ‘Testimonial cultures: An introduction’, Cultural Values, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1–6. Bell, M 1995, In harm’s way: Bosnia: A war reporter’s story, Penguin, London. Bull, S 2010, Photography, Routledge, New York. Bunce, M, Scott, M & Wright, K 2019, ‘Humanitarian journalism’, in Örnebring, H (ed.), Oxford research encyclopedia of communication, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp.  1–22, acrefore/9780190228613.013.821. Chong, D 2000, The remarkable story of Vietnam’s most famous casualty: The girl in the picture, Simon & Schuster, London. Dawes, J 2007, That the world may know: Bearing witness to atrocity, Harvard University Press, Cambridge. Downman, S & Ubayasiri, K 2017, Journalism for social change in Asia: Reporting human rights, Palgrave Macmillan, London. Hesford, W 2011, Spectacular rhetorics: Human rights visions, recognitions, feminisms, Duke University Press, Durham. Kozol, W 2014, Distant wars visible: The ambivalence of witnessing, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Liss, A 1998, Trespassing through shadows: Memory, photography, and the holocaust, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis. Loyd, A 1999, My war gone by, I miss it so, Grove Press, New York. Shaw, I 2012, Human rights journalism: Advances in reporting distant humanitarian interventions, Palgrave Macmillan, London. Sliwinski, S 2011, Human rights in camera, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Sontag S, 1977, On photography, Anchor Books Doubleday, New York.



Sontag, S 2003, Regarding the pain of others, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York. Stover, E & Peress, G 1998. The graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar, Scalo, Zurich. Taylor, J 1998, Body horror: Photojournalism, catastrophe and war, Manchester University Press, Manchester. Vulliamy, E 1994, Seasons in hell: Understanding Bosnia’s war, Simon & Schuster, Manchester. Wagner, SE 2008, To know where he lies: DNA technology and the search for Srebrenica’s missing, University of California Press, Berkeley. Webber, J 1995, ‘Foreword’, in Doorsy, Y (ed.), Representations of Auschwitz: Fifty years of photographs, paintings, and graphics, Auschwitz–Birkenau State Museum, Oswiecim, p. 10. Whitlock, G 2015, Postcolonial life narratives: Testimonial transactions, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Zelizer, B 1998, Remembering to forget: Holocaust memory through the camera’s eye, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Zelizer, B & Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K 2014, Journalism and memory, Palgrave Macmillan, London.


Remembering the 5 July 1962 Massacre in Oran, Algeria Amy L. Hubbell

Oran, the second largest city in Algeria, is often remembered by its former French inhabitants for its sweeping views from Mount Murdjadjo down to the Mediterranean port with the beautiful Fort and Chapelle de Santa Cruz overlooking the city. The city was the major settlement for Spanish immigrants during the colonial years and at one point there were more Spanish-speaking residents than French (Stora 1991, p.  31).1 It is also known as the city with the most Jewish influence in Algeria (Lakjaa 2008). As Abdelkader Lakjaa explains, ‘The city was actually reconquered so many times that it offers insight into the process of reappropriating spaces which took place in all Algerian cities’ (Lakjaa 2008).2 The numerous layers of influence are visually still present in the city. For example, the Cathédrale du Sacré-Coeur (now a public library) still acknowledges the city’s strong Catholic and French roots. While under French colonial rule, Oran was deemed ‘the model colonial city, or the most European Algerian city in Africa’ (Lakjaa 2008). However, while Oran has been idealised for

A. L. Hubbell (*) The University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




its European roots, another gruesome history is only recently coming to the surface. The city’s palimpsestic past, which had been neatly unified in images, now reveals traumatic histories embedded within those layers. In 2012, during the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of Algerian Independence, numerous books were published in France about the seven-year war (1954–1962). Among the autobiographies, historical and pictorial texts, is a corpus exploring the bloody ending of the war— the period between the Evian Accords (18 March) and Independence (5 July 1962). During these three and half months, the majority of Algeria’s nearly one million French citizens fled to France. The historic details about the events surrounding the end of the war are continually debated in public, and personal memories remain murky. One of the most famous French historians on Algeria, Benjamin Stora states, ‘History is still a battlefield’ (Stora and Quemeneur 2010, p. 2): despite the progressive opening of French archives, access is still limited, massive amounts of sources remain un-inventoried, many documents were lost between the two countries during and after decolonisation, and in many cases, Algeria would need to maintain the archives in question. When historical research is hampered, individual testimony leads the way (Banat-Berger and Noulet 2000); yet those who experienced traumatic events often have incompatible memories. Further complicating the memory of the war is the inability for the French to access sites of memory in Algeria and the lack of memorial spaces in which to grieve those who died. Despite these limitations, the stories from the end of the war are being intensely pursued and published, and the various ‘warring parties’ still fight to have their version of events, and what they perceive as the real version of the past, accepted into national discourses. With no physical space for reconciliation or mourning, for either the French or the Algerians, memory comes to rest in writing and film.3 The debated war stories are situated in the larger framework frequently called France’s ‘Memory Wars’ (‘La Guerre des Mémoires’).4 Amar Guendouzi in ‘Contemporary Algerian francophone fiction, trauma, and the “war of memories,”’ explains that the Memory Wars resulted from a long silence on the Algerian War for Independence followed by the French memory laws in the 1990s and 2000s.5 These laws, which sought to overtly acknowledge France’s colonial past, subsequently created ‘an overflow of remembrance’ (Guendouzi 2017, p. 236), which was complicated by traumatic experience and the various identity groups and political affiliations of those who remember. In addition to the heated debates about



the memory of the Algerian War in France, inside Algeria the memories also remain unreconciled. The diverse communities in colonial Oran experienced the war in different ways, and for those who left Algeria in 1962 or thereafter, their memories are further interrupted. While the disputed representation of events is not limited to one specific region in Algeria or to one date, in this chapter I attempt to understand the representation of the end of the Algerian War by examining a massacre of Europeans in Oran on Algerian Independence Day. Though the Oran massacre was not discussed openly for nearly fifty years, which is indicative of the way Algeria has generally been remembered in France, since 2011, the debate surrounding the massacre has been heated and public. Despite conflicting versions of events, there are numerous uncontested facts about what transpired leading up to and during the killings on 5 July 1962: • Oran was the most European city in Algeria, with the least influence from the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN, National Liberation Front). • From 1961 onward Oran was a stronghold for the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS, Secret Army Organisation), the covert French paramilitary organisation that fought to keep Algeria French even after Algerian independence. The OAS committed terrorist attacks on civilians and public figures throughout the end of the war. • Numerous OAS attacks occurred in the three months between the Evian Accords and Independence, many Muslims were killed, and the community was terrorised. • Between the ceasefire and Independence, numerous Europeans (regardless of political affiliations) went missing, and there are few survivor accounts to shed light on what happened to them. • On Independence Day, shots were fired during a public celebration parade. The Algerians thought they were under attack from the OAS. • From about 11 am to 4 pm that day, Europeans were rounded up and killed, though the number of dead ranges between 30 and 5000.6 • A large number of French military troops were in Oran but ordered not to respond. New recruits were locked in the barracks because Algeria was now under the control of the Algerian army.7 In the accounts I have examined, the above facts are not denied. However, the number of deaths varies enormously depending on who tells the story.8



This massacre is also allegedly known about by everyone from Oran and yet unofficially forbidden to share in Algeria. Algerian film director JeanPierre Lledo has called it an ‘absolute taboo’ (Lledo 2006). For this study, the corpus was limited to Jean-Pierre Lledo’s documentary film Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire (Algeria, stories that shouldn’t be told) (Lledo 2006),9 his book of the same title (Lledo 2011), a petition for the official recognition of the massacre (“Pétition internationale: 5 juillet 1962 à Oran” 2012), and debate in the press derived from Lledo’s op-ed in the Huffington Post in 2013. Through these texts, I attempt to uncover how forbidden truths can be revealed through survivor and witness narration of this traumatic event in documentary. I also explore how remembrance can occur or is interrupted when the sites of trauma are no longer accessible by those who suffered.10

Memory Wars The debate over historical facts is nothing new, but when it comes to the Algerian War, a lot is at stake. Many of the participants on both sides of the Mediterranean are still alive, and national identities have been created and sustained based on the way the war has been remembered. The French history of Algeria has largely been written by its former French inhabitants, collectively called the Pieds-Noirs.11 When I began researching the community in the 1990s, their heavily nostalgic memoirs were routinely sold as history in bookshops, and it was rare to find anything written about French Algeria from an Algerian perspective (Hubbell 2015b, p.  22). Benjamin Stora was one of the few authors producing academic studies of France’s past in Algeria and he eventually dominated the field. Now that more than fifty-five years have passed since Algerian independence, the older generation of Pieds-Noirs has passed away12 and the children who grew up in the war (Lledo and Stora included) are grappling with how to account for the daily violence they witnessed. Without the guilt of colonial history on their shoulders, they explore the violent past more freely, but national discourse and personal identity still stand in the way. In the case of the history of French Algeria, frequent claims are made that the truth is censored and suppressed, but the perception of truth is shaped by trauma. The Oran massacre is one of the most recent in a long series of massacres during the war to be explored. Previous massacres such as the 17 October 1961 killing of between 40 to 200 Algerians in Paris during a peaceful demonstration (Ramdani 2011), and the Massacre in Sétif, Algeria in



1945 have been studied in academic and popular culture works since the early 2000s.13 In his article, ‘Remembrance, Trauma and Collective Memory: The Battle for Memory in Psychoanalysis’, psychiatric expert in trauma Werner Bohleber works through what he calls ‘the colonization of the past by the present’ (Bohleber 2007, p. 333). He explains the Freudian view of memory in which our recollection of the past is always formed from a present perspective, and ‘In this conception of memory, the discovery of real events disappears from view’ (p. 333). Truth in several psychiatric models of memory has become obsolete because memory has gaps which we fill with new narrative explanations acquired in the present (p.  336). For Bohleber, the problem is that historical reality cannot be overlooked, but memory, especially traumatic memory, does not operate on fact. Traumatic memory is especially difficult because: Traumatic memories can exercise a distressing power and intrude violently into the present life context without being transmitted with it. Trauma is a brute fact that cannot be integrated into a context of meaning at the time it is experienced because it tears the fabric of the psyche. This creates special conditions for its remembrance and retroactive integration in present experience. (Bohleber 2007, p. 335)

According to Bohleber, there is no empirical evidence to support the accuracy or ‘reliability of autobiographical memory’ (p. 336). Traumatic reality and its horrors elicit defensive responses that can overpower remembrance (p. 347). The fact that someone lived through a traumatic historical event does not mean that the memory of it is connected to reality. Instead, historical facts sometimes fill in the gaps in the narrative. In Lledo’s documentary of the Oran massacre, the reconstruction of a gapped past happens through oral testimony captured at the sites of trauma in documentary film, but also through the inherent repetitions that occur in pre-interviewing witnesses, filming, editing, transcribing, and commenting, in which Algerian-born filmmakers and authors heavily participate. In a documentary that tracks down witnesses to past horror in an attempt to establish historical fact, it is uncertain that truth can be an outcome; yet, truth is exactly what Lledo is trying to expose. Dierdre Boyle in ‘Trauma, Memory, Documentary’ positions trauma documentary as hybrid, ‘neither fiction nor fact, but something in between’ created often by ‘non-Western filmmakers who creatively mine the crack between one



reality and the other’ (2010, p.  156). In Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire, Lledo films Algerian witnesses at sites of memory as they recount events that happened forty-five years earlier on those locations. Often the witnesses repaint the scenes they lived during the war while the reality of what is shown in the film is quite different. This rupture between present place and recollection of that site comes through strongly in the film. In Transcultural Cinema, David MacDougall usefully underscores the importance of these absences in memorial film work. He states, ‘Although films of memory often claim legitimacy as a way of salvaging first-person experience, they rarely address slippage in the memories of their informants. At the very least, signs of absence place memory in the context of forgetting, and define the past by its irreducible distance from the present’ (MacDougall 1998, p. 32). Absence in the film: Not only asks us to query first-person testimony but to look at empty roads and fields where atrocities took place and search them for what happened there. We look in vain for the signified in the sign. In this constant reiteration of absence we are brought to the threshold of one kind of knowledge about history. In the failure of the sign we acknowledge a history beyond representation. (MacDougall 1998, p. 236)

In some instances, in Lledo’s film, the locations align with memory and a place will seem unchanged despite the decades that have passed: a tree or park bench remains exactly where it was before independence and this will stun the witness.14 In other cases, the sheer absence of markers is equally troubling. In those cases, the past is made present through words, but recognition falters and becomes disputed. Lledo became a leader in the movement to open the archives surrounding the 5 July 1962 Massacre in Oran, but when he made this film, he was only beginning to interrogate this memory. While the reality of what happened in Oran is perhaps unknowable so many years later, the fact that the truth behind the massacre is being hotly pursued today demonstrates that the war survivors, victims, and witnesses, as well as their children are attempting to reconcile unconnected fragments into a coherent narrative. As recently as June 2018, survivors of the Oran massacre have debated how the events should be remembered in documentary film as each one seeks to create a coherent narrative of the trauma they witnessed.15 But when those interrogating the past are the ones who lived through the trauma, can truth be an expected outcome?



Oran: Stories that Shouldn’t Be Told In Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire, Lledo is only heard as the narrator, but his own historico-political position cannot be overlooked. Lledo, a French Jew who remained in Algeria after independence, grew up in Oran in a strong communist and pro-independence family but left the city in 1957 (Lledo 2013a). He was exiled from Algeria during the Algerian civil war in 1993 and his departure greatly marked him. He explains that the choice to stay in Algeria after 1962 meant denying a part of his identity and a part of Algeria’s past (Lledo 2011, p. 13). In this film, Lledo wanted Algerian men of his generation to conduct an investigation of their fathers’ struggle while keeping in mind the fundamental question: ‘would we be up to the task of casting a critical eye on them, of seeing and even more importantly saying the simple truth?’ (Lledo 2011, p.  14). Lledo’s film had been funded by the Algerian government, but it was never shown in Algeria. According to Lledo, he and many of those who appeared in the film were blacklisted by the Algerian Ministry of Culture and the film was censored. Lledo posed a threat to national history: ‘The building rests upon an official story. Questioning that story is tantamount to threatening its foundation’ (Lledo 2011, p. 11). When it came to Oran’s past, the focus of the fourth part of his film, Lledo had intended to show a harmonious city where Europeans (both Spanish and French), Muslims and Jews lived together in a specific neighbourhood called La Marine, now Sidi El Houari (Lledo 2013b). What he uncovered, though, was a memory of the massacre that could not be silenced. In an article in the Huffington Post, Lledo writes: I found out early on that something terrible had happened on 5 July 1962 in Oran where I no longer lived since 1957. Only my father’s pro-­independence and communist ideals, which were also passed down to me, stopped me from wanting to know more, and caused me to actually conceal it from myself. Mitigating circumstance: I lived in Algeria until 1993, and this subject like others was taboo. (Lledo 2013a)

As narrator in this documentary, Lledo sets up his own relationship to this massacre while filming a landfill with hundreds of seagulls pecking at it in the fog: ‘The July 5, 1962 dump, Petit Lac is to me, as well, the dump of all mass graves. From this war. And before this war. The dumps of all wars. An absolute taboo for many in Oran, what happened that day weighs on



them, to this day, like a curse’ (Lledo 2011 p. 81). Lledo then explains that the sense of guilt is palpable each time this date is discussed among Algerian civilians who witnessed the massacre, and his childhood friend Kader Smaïn has gone so far as to state that Algerians are still paying the consequences of this event today (2011, p. 82). To access the memory of the Oran massacre, Lledo follows a young Algerian theatre producer, Kheïr-Eddine, born well after independence in 1976, who sets out to know the real truth about his city by talking with older community members. For Kheïr-Eddine, 5 July 1962 is, first and foremost, the date of Algerian Independence, but also, ‘the departure of the French … and also, we also killed those who stayed’ (Lledo 2011, p. 81). He knows this because an unnamed female in his family went to Petit Lac on that day to celebrate with her Algerian flag and she saw bodies being thrown into the lake. This story has remained with Kheïr-Eddine and has plagued him: We didn’t learn that in school. Young people today know the history they were taught in school is false. They’ve been lied to. But they don’t know the truth, either. I’m going to Sidi El Houari, right near my house. I have so many questions eating away at me. Questions about history, memory … The truth, the real truth. (Lledo 2006)

Through interviewing people who were in this neighbourhood on 5 July 1962, Kheïr-Eddine hoped to understand what really happened. But he is met with silences, refusals, hints, contradictions, and a heavy amount of translanguaging between Spanish, French and Arabic, making it sometimes difficult for him to understand. The investigation follows several men who lived in Sidi El Houari, known for its peaceful cohabitation among the communities. The first participant named Hamani speaks primarily Spanish causing Kheïr-Eddine to state, ‘I don’t understand a thing! If you speak to me in Spanish …’ (Lledo 2006). Hamani switches to French to recount a beautiful co-­ existence in the highly diverse and poor neighbourhood where the Spaniards outnumbered the Arabs. Kheïr-Eddine responds in Arabic; Hamani answers in French, then Arabic and Spanish again, sometimes in the same sentence. Kheïr-Eddine brings the subject to Spaniards being killed at Independence. Hamani confirms ‘Yes, that’s true, it happened’. Hamani tells Kheïr-Eddine in Arabic and French that he was in charge of 150 scouts during the Independence parade. He heard on their way back



Fig. 11.1  Hamani denies involvement in the massacre. Film still, Algéries, histoires à ne pas dire (Lledo 2006)

to the neighbourhood that the OAS was shooting people. Hamani confides in Kheïr-Eddine, ‘But, I am going to tell you something, hey? From 19 March back in ’62, the OAS killed more than they should have. Well, then there was 5 July, it isn’t good what they did …’ Kheïr-Eddine asks for clarification, ‘Sorry, Father, are you telling me that here, on 5 July, the OAS killed …’ Hamani interrupts, ‘No, not 5 July! Then, it was the Arabs who, it seems, killed the French Algerians’ (Lledo 2011, p. 85). Hamani softens this progressively by saying, ‘That’s all I know’, ‘That’s what they say’, ‘it seems’, and in French, ‘I wasn’t there. I was with the scouts’ (Fig. 11.1). The second participant Naïri continues the story of a diverse and poor community that peacefully cohabited in Oran. Naïri walks through Sidi El Houari recreating verbally what it was like before the war for Kheïr-­ Eddine. He says, ‘we got along amazingly well’ and ‘we lived together until 1961’ when an unnamed ‘small event’ divided the community between Europeans and Muslims and the tunnel that connected La Marine and Sidi El Houari was closed off. While Naïri and Kheïr-Eddine walk through the dividing tunnel, Lledo films them from different angles, juxtaposing darkness and light ahead and behind them. At moments, their bodies block all light. Naïri recounts that when the tunnel was reopened



Fig. 11.2  Naïri and Kheïr-Eddine discussing communal separation in the tunnel. Film still (Lledo 2006)

three days before independence in 1962, real social healing and reunion occurred (Fig. 11.2). For Naïri, personally in Sidi El Houari, nothing happened on 5 July, yet he recognises the wound of the date: ‘July 5 ruined everything’, he says in French. He continues in Arabic, ‘it’s because of us’. While nothing happened in Sidi El Houarai, in the city there was a massacre. When Naïri uses the word genocide, Kheïr-Eddine asks him to explain. Naïri responds again in Arabic, ‘Yes, I say it! They cut throats, they killed. On the Place d’Armes, it was dreadful. They killed Europeans. Voilà’. As the men walk through the tunnel, the work of memory is foregrounded. Kheïr-Eddine was not yet born and Naïri was a schoolboy. As we see the alternating light and dark and hear Naïri talk about what he has heard over time, we cannot ignore that forty-five years have passed to shape the way the past is remembered, and this amount of time can influence the perception of a secondary witness or the recipient of post-memory where the gaps are plentiful. Historical facts, national stories, family stories, all intercede with the way the past is remembered and reordered, and the wound still sticks out in unexpected and uncontrolled ways. Naïri takes Kheïr-Eddine to La Calère where the Europeans had lived to show him where he was born. Kheïr-Eddine is stunned: ‘That’s La



Calère? You mean, that’s where La Calère was [because there’s nothing there]’. Naïri confirms, ‘There is nothing but a hill’ (Lledo 2006). Lledo does not take the camera off of the participants who try to imagine what was there before. The scene shifts to Kheïr-Eddine talking with an elderly couple about what happened in the La Calère neighbourhood and again La Calère is not shown. Instead the camera focuses on the man and woman looking out to the distance and describing to Kheïr-Eddine the way it used to be. The man explains, ‘All this wasteland used to be inhabited’ (Lledo 2006). While the man claims, ‘With time, it fell into ruins’, his partner responds firmly, ‘No! They were demolished. They destroyed the houses. Houses with owners! They broke everything! The State destroyed them! Houses were occupied. People ran out weeping. They were sad, some died’. The two presumably lived the same events but recount them and remember them differently. While the woman speaks of destruction, her husband looks off in the distance and attempts again, ‘They were falling into ruins!’ ‘No, they were destroyed!’ his wife responds (Lledo 2006). Both witnesses describe the hotels and restaurants that were there before, while on the screen, we only see the witnesses recreating the past for Kheïr-Eddine who visibly tries to make sense of the story. Like MacDougall’s conception of absence, Dylan Trigg’s study of ruins and sites of trauma resonates in this scene. Trigg proposes that ‘sites of trauma articulate memory precisely through refusing a continuous temporal narrative’ (Trigg 2009, p. 87), and the spatio-temporal discontinuity of traumatic memory is best represented in ruins. When faced with a ruin, the ‘reality of the traumatic event is not reinforced in this encounter, but instead trembles as an incommensurable void is given a voice between the viewer and the place’ (p. 99). On the screen the ruins function like the memory that is contested, argued, altered and obscured through multiple languages, but nonetheless spoken by each of the participants. The elderly woman goes on to recount a very personal traumatic memory on 5 July. She states that she was near the Jewish cemetery in Ville Nouvelle, the site of many killings, when the Mujahideen (Algerian liberation fighters) arrived. She was pregnant, had a miscarriage that day, and was taken to the hospital. That miscarriage spared her from seeing anything. Her husband picks up the story lamenting that if there had not been such mayhem and killings ‘July 5, 6, 7, whatever. They [the Europeans] wouldn’t have left. They would have stayed! They would have stayed under Algerian independence. They would have stayed with us!’ (Lledo 2006). The couple recounts the departure of the Europeans with much



Fig. 11.3  Kheïr-Eddine standing in the ruins of La Calère. Film still (Lledo 2006)

sadness: ‘We cried. We were sad. We lived happily, we grew up together’ (Fig. 11.3). With that admission of regret, the viewers are finally shown Kheïr-­Eddine from behind, walking through the rubble on the hill top, looking out at the surviving parts of Oran, visibly past its former glory, and then the film opens to a view of the well-preserved Fort and Chapel of Santa Cruz, an iconic image of European presence in Algeria.16 After Kheïr-Eddine interviews this couple, he speaks with an ex-FLN fighter, Abdelkader Zahaf, who claims to have killed for the cause. Zahaf explains that Sidi El Houari was a calm refuge for the revolutionary leaders because of its diversity, and he accuses the OAS of breaking ties between the Algerians and Spaniards and provoking the retaliatory campaign of ‘no pity’ against all Europeans in 1961. As for Independence Day, when Kheïr-­Eddine asks about Europeans being killed and thrown into the pond at Petit Lac, Zahaf states, ‘I was there’. He explains that when the OAS fired on someone in the parade, the Arabs lashed out, attacking all Europeans: ‘Big or little, they took them to the pond and killed them. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Once the bullet hit the pus, it was disaster for Oran’ (Lledo 2006). When Kheïr-Eddine asks if Zahaf saw this happen, the man says he didn’t see a thing that day. ‘No, I was in Sidi



El Houari. Nothing happened there’. Before ending the interview, Zahaf surprisingly says: I can’t talk about what happened in front of the camera. It would be overwhelming. Kheïr-Eddine: What happened? Zahaf: It would damage our honour. (…) I’ll tell you if you stop shooting. Lledo’s voice then intercedes as the scene ends: ‘But will Kheïr-Eddine ever uncover his “real truth”?’ (Lledo 2006)

The last interview in this sequence is with a well-known local dancer named Tchitchi who is now confined to a wheelchair. As he rides around in a van with Kheïr-Eddine, Tchitchi nostalgically recounts his happy youth in Oran and then the destruction of La Calère. He paints his memories of what was over the landscape he sees in front of him. Finally, Tchitchi addresses the massacre first insisting he did not leave the neighbourhood and that he saw nothing with his own eyes (‘I heard like everyone. But I saw nothing’). Then he recounts a round-up of twenty to thirty (a number immediately increased to over thirty) Christians on 5 July in the building where he lived, some who were his friends. He insists that no one was harmed. But Tchitchi’s memory is fading. He both can and cannot remember where he was, the names of people or the places where they were held. The film ends when Tchitchi is reunited with friends from his youth and fades out with women singing in Spanish at the festive gathering. Tchitchi is in tears overlooking the sea. In a 2013 op-ed published in the Huffington Post promoting a petition to open the archives on the events of 5 July in Oran, Lledo states that when he filmed Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire, he had hoped to discover that the diverse neighbourhood of La Marine, was an exception and that no one was killed. But when Tchitchi recounted the round-up of Europeans, he rendered the unspeakable. Lledo interprets this: ‘During our first meeting, he silently put his hand on his throat. In front of the camera, he stammered and contradicted himself several times in a few minutes … So, there was no exception in La Marine’ (Lledo 2013b) (Fig. 11.4).



Fig. 11.4  Tchitchi looking at the iconic Port of Oran. Film still (Lledo 2006)

Truth, History, Documentary In 2011, Lledo published his film scenario Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire. The film had been financed by the Algerian government, but then censored in Algeria. The interdiction of forbidden stories mandated that they be told in another format. Acclaimed Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal expresses his view of the risks involved with truth-telling under dictatorial governments in the preface to Lledo’s book: And what is this truth that we hide so well in Algeria (…) It is not a speech, it is not official history, it is not a screen, it is the truth, facts in their nakedness (…) Jean-Pierre has told his truth and I share it, and others should do as much. We would like to hear them, to hear their stories that shouldn’t be told; the others, the stories to be told, we know them already. (Lledo 2011, p. 10)

In 2012–2013, Lledo spearheaded the petition to open the French and Algerian archives for an international inquest which would finally allow the victims’ families to mourn properly (“Pétition internationale: 5 juillet 1962 à Oran” 2012). Despite over 10,000 signatures, the archives are not all available.17 Lledo’s subsequent Huffington Post article sparked brisk



debate in the press with Benjamin Stora and other historians. Lledo stated that the events were erased from national memory in Algeria and because of the quasi silence around this massacre, ‘There is absolutely no “memory war” (the hobby horse of the official historian Benjamin Stora who is especially quiet on this subject)’ (Lledo 2013a).18 Benjamin Stora wrote a counter argument in the Huffington Post chastising Lledo for diminishing the histories published since 1993. Stora, though acknowledging that the massacre merits more attention, contends that Lledo has offered ‘a hemiplegic history that is only interested in a single category of victims’ and that if the events are not put into context we cannot ‘really write the history nor come to a true reciprocal recognition of all the dramas that marred this war’ (Stora 2013).19 Though the argument between these two ended in the press, the representation of this massacre continues to be debated in academic works, social media and documentaries today.

Conclusion What is the real truth about 5 July 1962 in Oran and how can we know? Is it through a carefully crafted documentary whose path surprised even the director, though he claimed everyone from Oran knows about the massacre? Is it through other documentary films which contain graphic survivor accounts about the events they witnessed that day?20 How can the diverse communities that once lived in Oran reconcile their memories to represent the traumas that divided them? What happens when long years of exile, political goals and national discourses intervene with memory? In this context, can we know the true story? In a proposed law brought to the French National Assembly on 27 September 2017 to recognise the Oran massacre, journalist Georges-Marc Benamou is cited as saying, ‘the 5 July massacre in Oran seems to be a clandestine event, debated, imagined, and for which only the survivors can replay the memory. No definitive historical study. No real investigation. Few books. No plaque, no official government commemoration’ (Trastour-Isnart et al. 2017). The proposed law underscores the marked contrast between this massacre and François Hollande’s 2012 official recognition of the 17 October 1961 massacre of Algerians in Paris. Though the claim remains that little has been done to study this massacre, I would contend there is a large corpus of historical and testimonial work; the problem is rather that documentary and history cannot appropriately satisfy the need for public commemoration. Without a tangible space in which to share traumatic memory and



devastating loss, survivors and witnesses begin contesting individual accounts represented in film and print (see Hubbell 2018). In Tense Past: Cultural Essays in Trauma and Memory, Paul Antze and Michael Lambek try to understand how performative memory attempts ‘to recall the truth about literally “unspeakable” events’ but, ‘Memory is invoked to heal, to blame, to legitimate. It has become (…) a site of struggle as well as identification. Memory has found a prominent place in politics, both as a source of authority and a means of attack’ (Antze and Lambek 2016, p. vii). It is precisely the connection between this particular memory and community identity of two countries that went to war, that hinders truth in this instance. As long as there is no access to the site of memory for a large number of those who witnessed trauma, the memories will remain unreconciled. Even as Lledo struggles to share the untold and conflicting stories in Algeria, he tries to underscore a common narrative through interviews with Algerian men of his generation: traumatic killings of Europeans occurred in Oran on Independence Day. As in many traumatic events, Lledo found people willing to speak, but the reception is often difficult. When his film was censored in Algeria, some participants feared reprisals. Bohleber explains: ‘The confrontation … with the immense crimes, the unspeakable horror, and the immeasurable suffering of the victims, threatens to overwhelm remembrance and instigates avoidance strategies and a reluctance to know among those not affected’ (2007, p. 347). As we have seen through the contentious debates surrounding the 5 July 1962 in Oran, the massacre cannot be and is not denied, but as long as there is no space for commemoration and reconciliation, the conflict between memory and the truth behind the trauma will endure.

Notes 1. Spanish settlers started arriving in 1509 and maintained sporadic control until the Turks arrived at the end of the eighteenth century (Lakjaa 2008). Lakjaa explains that though there were 263 years of Spanish influence, the Jewish settlements in Oran go back to 1391 when the Jews fled persecution in Spain, Andalousia, and Grenada. This moves the Spanish presence earlier than 1509. 2. All translations are my own except for portions of the film Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire, which is subtitled in English. 3. Written and spoken testimony and historical texts about the Oran massacre were primarily published from 2006 to 2013 and include a public debate



in the press between Pierre Daum, Jean-Pierre Lledo, and Benjamin Stora among others. Historical texts include books by Guillaume Zeller, Guy Pervillé, Jean-Monneret, and Jean-Jacques Jordi. While Monneret, Jordi, Lledo, and Stora were born in Algeria, Pervillé, Daum, and Zeller were born in France. Zeller is the grandson of André Zeller, a French General who fought to keep Algeria French in the ‘putsch des généraux’ (‘generals’ coup’) in 1961 and was imprisoned for his actions. Daum is a controversial author who has long been writing books and articles that attempt to debunk the decolonisation stories from Algeria. In 2012 he published an article in Le Monde Diplomatique in which he interviewed an unnamed elderly ex-Armée de Libération Nationale (National Liberation Army) fighter. See also Daum’s 2012 book Ni valise, ni cercueil (Neither suitcase, nor coffin, 2012). Pervillé is a French professor of history whose academic career solely concentrates on Algeria. Stora is the most prolific historian on Algeria and president of the Musée de l’histoire de l’immigration (National Museum of the History of Immigration) in Paris. 4. In 2008, 46 years after the war ended, scholars such as Eric Savarèse began calling for the Memory Wars to end in L’Algérie dépassionnée: Au-delà du tumulte des mémoires (Savarèse 2008), a volume to which Stora contributed. 5. The memory laws began in 1990 with the Gayssot Law to outlaw the denial of crimes against humanity and the Taubira Law of 2001 to recognise the slave trade as a crime (Guendouzi 2017, p. 237). The most infamous memory law appeared in 2005 demanding that the positive aspects of colonialism be taught in French schools. Guendouzi rightly states this law triggered ‘cries of outrage among historians and other intellectuals on both sides of the Mediterranean’ and was later repealed (p. 236). 6. According to a 6 July 1962 article in the Swiss paper, Le Journal de Genève, allegedly 30-some people were killed (French and Algerians). The only confirmed details were that the shooting started a little before noon at Place Foch amongst a huge excited crowd. The newspaper stated that the numerous journalists and other witnesses present were ‘incapable of reliably stating how it started’ (‘L’Origine des fusillades d’Oran’ 1962). Jean Monneret puts the number of dead at 3000 (Monneret 2006), but JeanJacques Jordi in Un Silence d’Etat uses the archives to document 700 Europeans killed and many others missing. Jordi’s number is reproduced in Oran, le 5 juillet 1962 (Pervillé 2014). Recently Benamou stated that the official French government number of dead was 20 and historians have verified 700. See ‘La France doit reconnaître le massacre d’Oran’ (Bruyas 2018). 7. General Katz, often referred to by Pieds-Noirs as the Butcher of Oran, commanded the French troops and was under orders by President Charles



de Gaulle to not engage. Multiple sources report that 18,000 French troops were present, and many accounts exist from the soldiers who were locked up during the massacre. Since 2013, a narrative has progressively emerged that the attack on Europeans was carefully planned and coordinated by the Algerians; it had nothing to do with the OAS who had already fled Oran by Independence, and the French government knew about the attack but did not want the war to start back up; see Bruyas (2018). 8. In Un Silence d’Etat (A National Silence) Jordi cautions, ‘only the enlightened confrontation between diverse written archives and individual testimony will allow history to approach the truth of the disappearance of Europeans in Algeria’ (2011, p. 11). Similarly Pervillé (2014) argues that truth comes from diverse sources: ‘Contrary to what certain naïve people might think, when we are looking for historical truth we must, on the contrary, research the broadest possible variety of opinions, authors and sources that we use, because if we can finally state that authors of different opinions manage to agree on such facts, we can then conclude that we are looking at an authentic event’. 9. Lledo’s official English title for this film is ‘Algeria, Unspoken Stories’, but Lledo and his participants demonstrate that traumatic memory is spoken. It is the reception which remains problematic. In view of this, I have opted to translate the title as ‘Algeria, stories that shouldn’t be told’; see Hubbell (2013). 10. See Akagawa’s chapter which demonstrates how memorial museums allow visitors to participate and create meaningful experience while constructing shared memory. With many massacres, there is no place of remembrance where mourning and consciousness of the events can be reconciled. Consequently, experience depicted in art becomes the only space where memory can be contested by survivors and witnesses. 11. Eric Savarèse states that the academic work on the Pieds-Noirs should be read with caution because it is primarily written by the Pieds-Noirs themselves (Savarèse 2002, p. 27). While some claim that the Pieds-Noirs are overly protectionist of the past, and others believe those who intimately know Algeria should write its history, during the ‘wilful silence’ after the Algerian War through to the 1990s, the Pieds-Noirs were among few who published about Algeria. 12. Ashplant, Dawson, and Roper propose: ‘As public recognition of the traumatic experiences undergone by survivors of war has increased, so the ageing of those who lived through the wars of the early and mid-twentieth century has added an urgency and poignancy to the endeavour of collecting their testimony and reflecting on its significance’ (2000, p. 3). Urgently safeguarding a history ‘in peril’ is a primary goal of the Pieds-Noirs today.



However, in order to preserve one version of the past, one must be agreed upon, and ‘new accounts’ of the past are constantly arising. 13. According to Ramdani (2011), the initial reported number of dead was 3, but now it is believed at least 200 were killed in Paris on 17 October 1961. See also Cole (2006). An estimated 1020 to 45,000 died in the Sétif uprising in 1945, which has long been depicted in historical and popular texts. See, for example, Alistair Horne’s early history work, A Savage War of Peace (1978). 14. For an in-depth study of how Pied-Noir exiles experience physical return to the sites of their childhood, see Hubbell (2011). 15. Members of the French Cercle Algérianiste National Facebook Group engaged in a heated debate on 18–19 June 2018 after participating in the documentary Oran, le massacre oublié (Oran, the forgotten massacre) by Georges-Marc Benamou and Jean-Charles Deniau, which was screened in Nice on 5 July 2018 and later aired on France 3 television (Benamou and Deniau 2018). Members contested the ways events should be remembered and who was responsible for the massacre. At the advanced screening, historians Jean Monneret and Jean-Jacques Jordi presented historical research (‘Le film “Le massacre d’Oran” relance la quête de vérité’ 2018; Projection du film sur le massacre du 5 juillet 2018). 16. I extensively studied the nostalgic representation of the Chapelle de Santa Cruz; see Hubbell (2015a). 17. It remains unclear if the archives were destroyed, at least partially, by the OAS in June 1962 (Guignard 2015). 18. Lledo believes the attacks were coordinated by the FLN to scare the French citizens away (2011, p. 17). 19. This response was published 15 days after Lledo’s and signed by other personalities. Stora acquiesces that the massacre should be studied historically but not from a partisan perspective that mocks history (Stora 2013). 20. See La Valise ou le cercueil (Cassan and Havenel 2011), which contains graphic survivor accounts from ten witnesses in Oran on 5 July 1962.

References Antze, P & Lambek, M (eds.) 2016, Tense past: Cultural essays in trauma and memory, Routledge, London. Ashplant, TG, Dawson, G & Roper, M (eds.) 2000, The politics of war memory and commemoration, Routledge, London and New York. Banat-Berger, F & Noulet, C 2000, ‘Les sources de la guerre d’Algérie aux Archives nationales’, Revue française d’histoire d’outremer, vol. 87, nos. 328–329, pp. 327–51. Benamou, G-M & Deniau, J-C 2018, Oran, ce massacre oublié, France, 5 July 2018.



Bohleber, W 2007, ‘Remembrance, trauma and collective memory: The battle for memory in psychoanalysis’, International Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 88, no. 2, pp. 329–52. Boyle, D 2010, ‘Trauma, memory, documentary: Re-enactment in two films by Rithy Panh (Cambodia) and Garin Nugroho (Indonesia)’, in Sakar, B & Walker, J (eds.), Documentary testimonies: Global archives of suffering, Routledge, New York and London, pp. 155–72. Bruyas, L 2018, ‘La France doit reconnaître le massacre d’Oran’, Nice-Matin, 4 July. Cassan, C & Havenel, M 2011, La Valise ou le cercueil, DVD, France. Distributed by Reportage34. Cole, J 2006, ‘Entering history: The memory of police violence in Paris, October 1961’, in Lorcin, PME (ed.), Algeria and France 1800–2000: Identity, memory, nostalgia, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, pp. 117–34. Daum, P 2012, Ni valise, ni cercueil: les Pieds-Noirs restés en Algérie après l’indépendance, Actes Sud, Arles. Guendouzi, A 2017, “Contemporary Algerian francophone fiction, trauma, and the ‘war of memories”, Journal of Romance Studies, vol. 17, no. 2, pp. 235–53. Guignard, D 2015, ‘Les archives vivantes des conservations foncières en Algérie’, L’Année du Maghreb, vol. 13, pp. 79–108. Horne, A 1978, A savage war of peace: Algeria 1954–1962, Viking Press, New York. Hubbell, AL 2015a, ‘Accumulating Algeria: Recurrent images in Pied-Noir visual works’, in Edwards, N, McCann, B & Poiana, P (eds.), Framing French culture, University of Adelaide Press, Adelaide, pp. 209–27. ——— 2015b, Remembering French Algeria: Pieds-Noirs, identity and exile, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London. ——— 2011, ‘(Re)turning to ruins: Pied-Noir visual returns to Algeria’, Modern & Contemporary France, vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 147–61. ——— 2018, ‘Scandalous memory: Terrorism testimonial from the Algerian war’, Contemporary French and Francophone Studies, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 49–57. ——— 2013, ‘Unspoken Algeria: Transmitting traumatic memories of the Algerian war’, in El Nossery, N & Hubbell, AL (eds.), The unspeakable: Representations of trauma in Francophone literature and art, Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, pp. 305–24. Jordi, J-J 2011, Un silence d’état: Les disparus civils européens de la guerre d’Algérie, SOTECA, Mercuès. ‘L’Origine des fusillades d’Oran ne sera probablement jamais connue’ 1962, Journal de Genève, 6 juillet 1962, p.  14, viewed 18 June 2018, . Lakjaa, A 2008, ‘Oran, une ville algérienne reconquise; Un centre historique en mutation’, L’Année du Maghreb, vol. 4, pp. 441–56.



‘Le film “Le massacre d’Oran” relance la quête de vérité’ 2018, Nice Premium, 7 July 2018, viewed 28 March 2020, . Lledo, J-P 2006, Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire, Algérie. Distributed by Albarès. ——— 2011, Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire: le film choc interdit en Algérie, EditionAtlantiS, Friedberg. ——— 2013a, ‘Algérie: comment faire reconnaître le massacre du 5 juillet 1962’, Huffington Post, 5 November, viewed 28 November 2017, . ——— 2013b, ‘Algérie: qui est l’auteur du massacre du 5 juillet 1962 à Oran?’, Huffington Post, 6 November, viewed 29 November 2013, . MacDougall, D 1998, Transcultural cinema, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Monneret, J 2006, La Tragédie dissimulée: Oran, 5 juillet 1962, Michalon, Paris. Pervillé, G 2014, Oran, le 5 juillet 1962, YouTube video, 11 April, viewed 19 April 2019, . Pétition internationale: 5 juillet 1962 à Oran, Algérie 2012, Cercle Algérianiste, viewed 4 December 2017, . Projection du film sur le massacre du 5 juillet 2018, viewed 19 June 2018, . Ramdani, N 2011, ‘The massacre that Paris denied’, The Guardian, 17 October, viewed 18 April 2019, . Savarèse, E 2002, L’Invention des Pieds-Noirs, Séguier, Paris. ——— 2008, ‘En finir avec les guerres de mémoires algériennes en France’, in Savarèse, E (ed.), L’Algérie dépassionnée: Au-delà du tumulte des mémoires, Editions Syllepse, Pairs, pp. 175–99. Stora, B & Quemeneur, T 2010, Algérie 1954–1962: Lettres, carnets et récits des Français et des Algériens dans la guerre, Les Arènes, Paris. Stora, B 1991, La Gangrène et l’oubli: la mémoire de la guerre d’Algérie, La Découverte, Paris. ——— 2013, ‘Ne pas instrumentaliser les massacres du 5 Juillet 1962 à Oran’, Huffington Post, 20 November, viewed 28 November 2017, .



Trastour-Isnart, L, Tabarot, M, Verchère, P, Pauget, É, Brochand, B, Ciotti, É, Deflessell, B & Diard, É 2017, Proposition de loi visant à reconnaître le massacre de la population française à Oran le 5 juillet 1962, . Trigg, D 2009, ‘The place of trauma: Memory, hauntings, and the temporality of ruins’, Memory Studies, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 87–101.


Cultural Practices as Sites of Trauma and Empathic Distress in Like Cotton Twines (2016) and Grass between my Lips (2008) Dennis-Brook Prince Lotsu

Over the last four decades, trauma has had particular resonance with scholars who study personal and collective memory of survivors of the Holocaust, genocide, and other atrocities of magnified public proportions (see Caruth 1995; Van der Kolk and Van der Hart 1995; El Nossery and Hubbell 2013; de Bruyn 2014; Goodall and Lee 2015; Nikro and Hegasy 2017). Images, testimonies, and narratives that bear witness to the ‘unmentionability’ and inaccessibility of such trauma have since been investigated and documented, with a special focus on the unspeakable burden of personal and collective memory of trauma on survivors (Radstone 2000; Guerin and Hallas 2007). In the same way, visual representations of the experiences of the traumatised and the distress of witnessing trauma have also been identified to have the capacity to make

D.-B. P. Lotsu (*) School of Languages and Cultures, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




viewers share in and identify with the pains of victims. This chapter seeks to understand cinematic articulation of the violence and trauma embedded in the performance of two African cultural practices and the capacity of their cinematic presentation—narrative content and aesthetic medium— to evoke empathic distress in the audience. I highlight the ways in which mainstream entertainment cinematic representations of female genital cutting/mutilation/excision (FGC/M/E)1 and Trokosi (deity servitude) elicit empathic response from the audience. I begin with a brief ontological exploration of FGC and Trokosi and their ideological challenges. This is followed with a brief overview of the affective, phenomenological, and cognitive conceptualisations of empathy in cinema. I then conclude with a reading of Leila Djansi’s Like Cotton Twines (2016) and Amardeep Kaleka’s Grass between my Lips (2008).

The Context of Female Genital Cutting/Mutilation and Trokosi Female genital excision—‘partial or total removal of the female genitalia or other injury to the genital organs for non-medical reasons’ (OHCHR et al. 2008, p. 1)—and Trokosi are two fiercely contested African cultural practices that have found their way into international and global emancipatory discourse since the 1960s and 1980s respectively, for their infringement on the rights and freedoms of girls and women.2 FGC involves an alteration, usually the excision of the labia minora and or majora.3 Across the world, it is estimated between 150 and 200 million girls and women have undergone the procedure, out of which 91.5 million are in Africa (UNICEF 2016). Trokosi, on the other hand, is a cultural, religious, and crime-control practice observed among the Dangme, Fon, and Ewe ethnic groups in West Africa: Ghana,4 Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. It is believed to have originated in the seventeenth century as a spiritual form of atonement.5 The general scholarly and advocacy definition of Trokosi entails the act of families offering their female children, usually virgin girls, to fetish priests6 to serve at shrines as an act of atonement (Rossi 2016; Gyurácz 2017). The girls are given to the gods to appease them for crimes committed by family members—parents, relatives, or clansmen—or as ‘gifts’ of appreciation for a divinity’s magnanimity (Akyeampong 2001; Archampong 2010; Bastine 2012). However, ‘once given to the priest, a girl becomes his property,



forced to carry out domestic task[s]’, and is subjected to ritual and sexual servitude at her first menstrual cycle (Mistiaen 2013), as the priest symbolically ‘consummates’ her marriage to the gods.7 After years of service at the shrine, trokosis may be released, but many are stigmatised and ostracised, making it practically impossible for them to survive the aftermath of their ordeal or secure life partners (Ben-Ari 2001; Howusu 2016). Despite the criminalisation of FGC and Trokosi in Ghana, girls continue to be secretly circumcised and admitted as trokosis.8 The framing of FGC and Trokosi as human rights and developmental concerns or as forms of cultural expression present a significant challenge to their eradication. To Western feminists and human rights activists, these practices are a ‘mutilation’ of the body, an attempt aimed at depriving women of an essential aspect of their femininity (sexual and sensual capacity and autonomy)—a ‘mutilation’ of her potential to self-actualisation (Jolly et al. 2013). Contrarily, cultural relativists interpret FGC and Trokosi as forms of cultural expression, and for this reason anti-excision campaigns are considered forms of ‘cultural imperialism’ aimed at neutralising indigenous cultures and subduing cultural identity (Asomah 2015; Mende 2018). One of the dangers of the human rights’ perspective, which inescapably characterises most documentaries on the subject-matter,9 is the lack of contextual specificity or what Marilyn Frye (1983) terms ‘arrogant perception’. This perspective, Frye notes, typifies the approaches taken by Western media, feminists, and human right activists when presenting themselves as saviours of African women, who are always already reified as passive victims of African societies already reified as patriarchal. For instance, Stanlie M.  James (1998), in a critique of Alice Walker and Pratibha Parmar’s documentary film, Warrior Masks (dir. Walker and Parmar 1993), points to Western feminists’ ‘horrified [and] condemnatory responses to practices’ of FGC (p. 1034). As James observes, Walker’s project, though ‘imbued with sympathetic perspective’, runs the ‘unintentional consequence of “othering” or marginalising the very people she wishes her audience to support’ (p. 1032), and, thus, runs the risk of eliding the social significance and cultural values of the practice.10 Grass between my Lips11 chronicles the struggles of a pubescent girl, Rakia, who, at her coming of age, drops out of school, is betrothed to a man thrice her age, and must, as custom demands, be circumcised before her marriage to her husband. Recounting the sudden eruption of Rakia’s traumatic memory of her sister’s genital excision and subsequent death, the film’s narrative and visual style immerse the audience in Rakia’s world



as she experiences memory surges of the past, which do not only feed her trepidation about the practice but also build in her a strong aversion to excision. Scheduled for her initiatory excision, Rakia manages to flee, thanks to her grandmother and classmate. Like Cotton Twines,12 however, presents accounts of FGC and Trokosi, the violence and trauma embedded in their performance, and their sexual exploitation of girls and women. It chronicles the struggles of another pubescent girl, Tuigi, and the attempts of an African-American volunteer teacher, Micha Brown, to save her from being given to serve in a shrine. At puberty, Tuigi begins to experience the harsh realities of being a girl in a society where the female-child is either commoditised through marriage or made a bonded servant to gods. Tuigi, unlike Rakia in Grass between my Lips, is abducted and made to undergo genital excision at puberty. However, when her father, Yema, kills a fellow hunter whom he mistakes for game, he, as custom demands, offers his virgin daughter to the gods in atonement for his crime. From thence, Tuigi’s education and life come under threat as she is raped, forced to perform labour and ritual servitude, and finally dies in childbirth. FGC and Trokosi are not subjects that would normally be considered suitable for an entertainment medium such as cinema outside the documentary realm, where the link to an external reality is one of the fundamental principles of the genre. Yet, tales of these practices are integrated into the fictional films under consideration here. While these are integrated into a mainstream and conventional narrative context to give the films a broader appeal, the films in no way shy away from mirroring the harsh reality of these practices. This, I argue, is done not simply to shock the audience as would be the case in many films in which such graphic depiction of violence is present, but, on the contrary, to instigate a very specific kind of relation to the viewer that heightens empathic affect at the same time as it positions the spectator in a specific kind of relation to what is depicted on screen, thus placing a burden of ethical responsibility on them.

The Ethical and Affective Turn in Cinema Cinema projects virtual worlds that engage viewers’ emotions, extend their imaginations beyond their immediate confines, and question their beliefs, values, and assumptions. It possesses the capacity to evoke forms of ethical experience that might initiate transformation of our worldview



and values. The ethical turn in cognitive and phenomenological film theory in the last two decades ‘stresses the particular affective nature of film spectatorship’ that highlights the ‘perceptual and sensorial engagement with film … as a moral ground to connect reality and other’ (Choi and Frey 2013, p. 1; see also Sinnerbrink 2016). Central to this ethical turn is the focus on the cognitive, affective, and embodied dimensions of film to bridge the gap between the self and the other in what has been variously theorised as empathy, sympathy, emotional engagement, identification, and perspective-taking (Smith 2003; Carroll 2013a; Stadler 2013).13 Here I focus on empathy, a critical facet of ethics in cinema, broadly categorised as cognitive awareness of another’s feelings or affective/embodied experience of what another person feels (see Plantinga 2009; Carroll 2013b). Empathy for fictional characters can evoke altruistic impulses that in a way enable viewers to put themselves in their shoes. To this effect, Dominic McIver Lopes argues that ‘seeing and imagining seeing both trigger empathy’ in viewers because pictures enable ‘empathy-affording experiences’ which do not differ from ‘extra-pictorially empathy-affording experiences’ that are engendered when viewers witness events face-to-face (2011, p. 121). While some theorists like Barker (2009) understand empathy as affective mimicry, emotional contagion, or other gestural and structural qualities shared by films and their viewers, film phenomenologist, Vivian Sobchack, considers empathy as ‘central to any understanding of the connection between ethics and aesthetics’ and ‘the question of the limit between the body and the world’ (2004, p. 286). Ann E. Kaplan (2011), on the other hand, advances three forms of empathic response to images of catastrophe and characters’ emotions. The first instance of audience empathic response to images of catastrophe, she notes, is a vicarious trauma—a ‘response in which the viewer is shocked to the extent of being emotionally over-aroused’ or where ‘a catastrophe may be so strong and personally painful that the individual turns away, or thinks distracting thoughts, unable to endure the feelings aroused’ (2011, p. 256). Empty empathy is a transient and transitory empathic emotion; ‘that is, what starts as an empathic response gets transformed into numbing by the succession of catastrophes displayed before the viewer’. On the contrary, witnessing is a ‘response that may change the viewer in a positive pro-social manner’ (p. 256). Though these scholarly frameworks are by no means exhaustive of the interdisciplinarity of film and ethics, they are instructive in advancing our understanding of the ways through which the films instigate an



intersubjective relationship between the viewer and the fictional agents and the visual presentations of FGC and Trokosi.

FGC and Trokosi as Sites of Trauma, Memory, and Empathic Distress Like Cotton Twines and Grass between my Lips are exemplary of the potential of fiction to successfully re-create traumatic events and produce effects that closely mimic reality and engender empathy in spectators. Through different narrative and aesthetic strategies, the films foreground the trauma and violence embedded in the performance of FGC and Trokosi. The psyche and bodies of the victims who undergo circumcision or witness its devastating blow become, like sites of memorialisation and remembrance, places where victims return unconsciously to relive the traumatic past. Grass between my Lips, for instance, foregrounds the materiality of the trauma of witnessing FGC through dreams and flashbacks. The film opens with Rakia, the protagonist, as she lights a lantern in a room as a thunderstorm threatens. As she adorns herself with a trinket from her deceased sister, Alima, she recalls, in a voice-over narration, her early childhood and Alima who dies as a result of post-circumcision complications. As she recounts: [The] last time it stormed like this, my sister passed away. She was the one [who] named me Rakia … the only mother I knew because our mother died giving birth to me. My sister passed away from the cuts … cuts made during the ceremony. This is how it was always known to me, as a ceremony. But now, I know it as something different. (Grass between my Lips 2008)

Here Rakia’s trauma is recalled to the present with an immediacy that disrupts temporality as the organising principle of the mind and emotions. The voice-over narration sets the tone for the narrative and re-calibrates viewers’ perceptive and emotive repertoires to FGC, while aligning viewers with the protagonist. The viewer is introduced to Rakia and the conflict of genital excision as she re-experiences the past as a mental emergence stimulated by the trinket. This trauma which she experiences as a child ‘refuses to be represented as past, but is perpetually re-experienced in a painful, dissociated traumatic present’ (Leys 2000, p. 2). In Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, Felman and Laub (1992), underscore the mind’s ability to bear



witness to trauma in a manner that the psychic mechanism prevents survivors from internalising the trauma. Felman and Laub observe that the mind defensively blocks the traumatised from an instantaneous assimilation of the trauma—a form of self-preservation from the shock. The repressed trauma is stored in the unconscious and subsequently erupts involuntarily. By evoking memories of Rakia’s bond with her deceased sister, Alima, and the latter’s excision, the film provides a mechanism which enables viewers to make ‘embodied value judgment or appraisal’ (Carroll 2013a, p. 45), of Rakia’s values so as to affectively align with her later decision not to undergo the excision. Nonetheless, while remembering functions as one form of viewers’ affective identification with the trauma of Rakia, the visual and sound design in this sequence also provide another dimension of empathic identification. The crash of thunder while the subject is framed in a visually claustrophobic space (underexposed close-up and medium shots of Rakia in a dimly lit room), and her epiphanic enunciation, ‘But now, I know it as something different ,’ create an aura of mystery and gloom. While this atmosphere induces Rakia’s remembrance and, as it were, causes her to recount these events to the spectator, it also casts gloom over the spectators and makes them imagine Rakia’s loss in such a way that an intersubjective link is created between her and the spectator. The aesthetic medium of Grass between my Lips further highlights encounters central to the function of personal traumatic memories in contemporary conceptions of bearing witness to trauma. Goodall and Lee (2015), focusing on the relationship between experiential trauma, narratives, and memorialisation, point to trauma’s ‘connections to personal experiences’ which are typified ‘by violent and incoherent sensory replay, often accompanied by a sense of pointlessness that the individual finds overwhelming and disabling … sudden and involuntary’ (pp.  2–7). As observed in the film, Rakia’s repressed memory of FGC intermittently erupts as she witnesses others across time undergo similar experiences. The first of such instances occurs through a flashback when Rakia, on her way to the stream, witnesses a mother comforting a freshly excised girl in one of the houses. The flashback scene juxtaposes different moments of temporal referents in which the narrative activates her traumatic memory of her sister’s post-excision haemorrhage and anguish. This sudden eruption of traumatic memory re-awakens in her a non-conforming attitude towards the practice; she chooses to flee rather than undergo excision.



As she approaches puberty, Rakia develops intense anxieties and fear of menstruation and genital excision, which are fuelled by her self-awareness of the socio-cultural environment where ‘when [a] girl is old enough to give birth, she is old enough for marriage, and with every marriage comes a dowry’ (Grass between my Lips 2008). Culturally, virgin girls are considered the proud possessions of their families because they present an opportunity for higher dowries. As such, parents in FGC practising societies, ‘circumcise [their daughters] with good intentions’ (Dellenborg 2004, p.  81), to signal their readiness for early commodification for marriage; parents usually dread girls whose menstruation delays. Indeed, in Like Cotton Twines, Tuigi’s father, Yema, could not conceal his annoyance at Tuigi’s delayed menstruation. Eventually when the long-awaited news is delivered to him, he sarcastically retorts: ‘Finally. Other girls became women at a much younger age. She chose to keep us all waiting’ (Like Cotton Twines 2016). In the event a girl decides to rebel against genital excision, the only option is to lose her virginity before her first menstrual cycle. Rakia’s awareness of this is foreshadowed in moments of haunting prolepsis. In a dream sequence in which she illusorily attempts to compromise her virginity with Masai, her classmate, she wakes up to the manifestation of her menses. The next morning, as she washes the blood-soaked clothing in a bucket of water, she experiences yet another flashback to the actual cutting procedure of her sister, where spectators witness the bloodsoaked cloth, razor blade, and entire excision process of Alima. Indeed, Rakia’s decision to abscond (with the help of Masai and Babani, her grandmother) and avoid the initiatory excision and subsequent marriage to Baba Aloa is chiefly influenced by memories of her traumatic past. The conflation of memory in a past-present-future meld enables the fictional agent to navigate her present circumstances with the hindsight of memory of the past. The sporadic memory surge of Rakia, for instance, produces anxieties and aversions that shape her attitudes to FGC. The past trauma, hence, becomes ‘a mode of both inhabiting and initiating social exchange aimed towards engaging political cultures and sensibilities’ (Nikro and Hegasy 2017, p. 11). Through the reliance on the memory of the past, the narrative takes the audiences through the residues of Rakia’s experience of genital excision, all the while allowing for an experiential and subjective immersion into the world of the protagonist. Through the opening voice-over narration and subsequent eruptions of repressed traumatic memory, the film offers an intersubjective mode that cues spectators to imaginatively share in Rakia’s distress.



Djansi’s Like Cotton Twines, on the contrary, engenders intersubjectivity between the self (the viewer) and the other (fictional characters) through the overt display of character emotions. The narrative provides moments that enable viewers to experience the emotional distress of the characters in a much more affective and embodied manner. The first instance of viewer emotional distress occurs within the context of Tuigi’s capture and circumcision. As she is seized at night for her excision and later given as a trokosi, Tuigi makes impassioned pleas to her mother, Ajovi, to save her, but the latter, who herself was circumcised, refuses to help. Viewers expect Ajovi to exhibit a sense of shared victimhood, which often attends to collective memory and identity with past trauma, by preventing her daughter from undergoing the same traumatic experience. Ajovi’s lack of compassion for Tuigi elicits spectators’ disapproval; instead of evoking viewers’ sympathy for Ajovi, as in the case of Babani in Grass between my Lips who intervenes for Rakia, the scene makes spectators uneasy with Ajovi’s neglect of Tuigi. Subsequently, Tuigi expresses disappointment in her mother’s seemingly consistent unsupportiveness when she questions her: ‘Are you really my mother? Did you really give birth to me? You never stand up for me, not even when I was circumcised’ (Like Cotton Twines 2016). The display of hysteria14 during this exchange, reduced to mother and daughter venting their frustration by repetitively throwing oranges at each other, arouses, in two ways, what Kaplan terms vicarious empathy—‘response in which the viewer is shocked to the extent of being emotionally over-­ aroused’ (2011, p.  256). Firstly, the act captures the unbearableness of their emotional distress; the psychological anxiety associated with both latent and manifest trauma of deity servitude. The repetitive act demonstrates the level of their hopelessness. Secondly, viewers respond affectively to Tuigi’s emotional distress and experience frantic worry as to why, for the second time, Ajovi could not intervene. This points to differences in the contextual framing of excision in both films. Whereas excision in Grass between my Lips is framed as an initiatory practice with hesitant participants, in Like Cotton Twines, it is characterised by brute force and abduction. Djansi deploys this strategy to get the viewers to judge Ajovi and question her complicity, and that of other women who help to perpetuate these practices in the name of tradition. It also helps heighten viewers’ abhorrence to FGC and Trokosi and arouse viewers’ pity for the conditions of the victims, while interpolating the viewers to share in the helplessness of the characters.



Spectators are further drawn into the narrative through the mechanisms of Tuigi’s involuntary recall of trauma and other visual techniques— framing, visual composition, and editing. As the narrative unfolds and Tuigi must atone for Yema’s crime at the shrine, Ajovi becomes contrite. In a consolable tone, Ajovi embraces Tuigi and informs her of the imminent predicament. She then entreats Tuigi to be a strong girl. This encounter is presented in a flashback: the past (the previous night’s discussion between Tuigi and Ajovi about the former’s imminent servitude at the shrine) and the present (Tuigi’s recall the next morning while she is the classroom). The visual composition shows her face in a close-up, which focuses in on the tears welling in her eyes. She occupies the foreground of the frame, while the other pupils inhabit the background. The shot of Tuigi’s teary, red eyes helps convey the gravity of her emotional agony and aversion to the idea of serving at the shrine. This visual composition, once again, evokes what Ann E.  Kaplan terms vicarious trauma. Out of the viewers’ earlier identification with Tuigi as a victim of circumstances and subsequent depiction in states of absentmindedness, Djansi succeeds in appealing to the audience to vicariously experience the anger and self-pity of Tuigi’s distress. Viewers become angry at society’s complicity in such egregious abuse of girls through circumcision and Trokosi. Thus, seeing tears flow down Tuigi’s cheeks as she goes through life-altering moments outside her control evokes spectators’ frustration as all attempts to save Tuigi fail. By focusing on Tuigi’s face, while de-focusing the other pupils, Djansi gives visual prominence to Tuigi’s trauma in a way that invites the audience, as it were, to empathise and identify with Tuigi’s acute emotions of despondency (see Fig. 12.1). Moreover, in the days following the news of her impending servitude to the gods, Tuigi’s demeanour changes from a cheerful and vivacious girl to a pensive and lachrymal young woman: Tuigi is often submerged in a state of perplexity and isolation at school as she bears the shame and burden of her imminent slavery to the gods. The fact that Tuigi’s trauma of being a trokosi is often beyond her capacity to share with others calls to mind Stephen Pattison’s observation that ‘if shame becomes a constant experience … a dominant mood or character trait,’ then the ‘deeply shamed or shame-bound person is trapped, self-rejecting, paralysed, passive and often depressed’ (Pattison 2000, p. 7), as is the case of Tuigi and Rakia whose inability to articulate earlier witnessed trauma, later experience an overwhelming memory eruption.



Fig. 12.1  Tuigi externalising the trauma of becoming a trokosi. Film still (Like Cotton Twines 2016)

Positioning Viewers as Witnesses to Trauma through Disquieting Visuals The narrative of Like Cotton Twines further interpolates viewers in a way that positions them as witnesses (ethical beings) to trauma rather than spectators (mere observers or voyeurs). This changes the relation spectators have with events depicted on screen because witnessing images of trauma and catastrophe, according to Kaplan (2011), occurs with ‘a deep and enduring identification with what the victims in the case feel’ (p. 271). It occurs when the audience takes ‘responsibility for injustices … or actually doing something about injustices’ so as ‘to change the kind of world where injustices, of whatever, is common’ (p. 276). To demonstrate how witnessing functions in the context of the films, we fall once again on the intercut scene in which Tuigi recalls, while in the classroom, her mother’s recount of the Trokosi practice. This scene assumes a much more political and symbolic function within the framework of witnessing. In this scene, Djansi frames Tuigi looking slightly off-screen (see Fig. 12.1), so that she does not directly address the viewers with her gaze or emotions. By framing Tuigi this way, Djansi symbolically makes Tuigi’s emotional distress that of other fictional characters (Micha Brown and one of the teachers,



Sarah, the first of the fictional agents to bear witness to Tuigi’s trauma) and the audience; by extension the larger society. No longer is trauma personal and private, but public (the scene is set in the public space of a classroom) as it transcends the realm of the individual to the collective in a manner that ‘the act of bearing witness … constitutes a specific form of address to the other’ (Guerin and Hallas 2007, p. 10). In the 1 minute 23 seconds duration of the flashback scenes, 30 seconds of which Tuigi’s involuntarily recalls the news of her impending servitude at the shrine, Tuigi’s intense emotions remain muted, but for the tears that uncontrollably roll down her cheeks. This demonstrates Caruth’s position that traumatic experiences ‘[are] not wholly possessed, fully grasped, or completely remembered events’ by its survivors (Caruth 1996, p.  124). Instead, trauma survivors embody trauma’s untold burden and victimisation, just like Tuigi who bears the trauma of FGC, and is traumatised by both the thought of serving as a trokosi and her mother’s failure to protect her from it. By introducing this mode of personal trauma narrative into mainstream entertainment cinema, Djansi and Kaleka manage to connect individual narratives to a large-scale socio-political project that places an ethical demand on the larger society, as demonstrated in the collective attempts of the fictional characters at liberating Tuigi and Rakia. As Tuigi commences her duties at the shrine, she is prevented from continuing her education, as are all trokosis. But, Micha Brown, to whom Tuigi recounts her trauma, secretly tutors and prepares her for her entrance examination; a benevolence which subsequently results in the termination of his volunteering when he clashes with the school authorities. After Micha’s departure, the Trokosi priest prevents Tuigi from sitting for the examinations and a collective revolt ensues. Sarah, her fellow teachers, and students collectively protest for Tuigi’s release to enable her to write the exams. Similarly, in Grass between my Lips, Babani and Masai help Rakia elope on the night of her excision. By these acts of intervention, the films and their narrative agents open ‘up space for witnesses who did not directly observe or participate in the traumatic event’ (Guerin and Hallas 2007, p. 12), of FGC and Trokosi to bear witness to their havoc. As Kaplan puts it, the act of witnessing functions as a form of mobilisation of the ‘consciousness of large communities, [but] instead of intensifying the desire to help an individual in front of one, witnessing leads to a broader empathic understanding of the meaning of what has been done to the victims, of the politics of trauma being possible’ (2011, p.  276). The collective intervention of



these fictional agents equates them to political activists who acted against the injustices of FGC and Trokosi in the 1990s while pointing to such activism as one of the ways by which society can reform and eradicate such practices. By juxtaposing the traumatic past of the characters with their present predicament and projecting into the future by way of a consolidated activism, Djansi and Kaleka seem interested in dismantling the deep-­ seated socio-cultural beliefs of Ghanaians about FGC and Trokosi. Their decision to depict the conditions of the victims is therefore not simply to shock viewers but to initiate a deeper interrogation of the realities of FGC and Trokosi and create awareness in society. Though the failure of Micha Brown and the Canadian aid worker, Allison Dean, to rescue Tuigi exudes what Kaplan terms empty empathy, owing to their outsider/Western ‘arrogant perception’ which creates a false identification (imagining an experience of pain that they have no chance of ever experiencing), and a radical disidentification given the Othering of the victims of FGC and Trokosi, I argue the opposite. Thus, the films’ intersubjective interpolation of viewers to the condition of the victims dismantles the challenge of Othering as raised by Frye (1983) and James & Robertson (2002). Because, when we see the victims through an empathetic lens, we ‘cross boundaries of class, nationality, race, and gender’ (Nussbaum 1996, p. 51) to see the strange as familiar and that which is familiar as strange. Empathy then becomes an essential ingredient to ethical and intercultural understanding as we connect our humanity to others’ irrespective of our cultural differences. Aside from drawing on personal traumatic memory of the fictional agents, Leila Djansi and Amardeep Kaleka further deploy disquieting visuals that heighten viewers’ empathy to the distress of the victims. The excision implements (razor blade and knife), which occupy visually symbolic positions in both films, are presented with maximum aesthetic value that evokes horror, cruelty, anguish, and pain often inherent in FGC (see Fig. 12.2). The imagery of a razor blade is appropriated as a purposeful and barbaric weapon that causes physical and emotional trauma to its victims. Psychologically, the razor blade symbolises the traumatic memories of past sufferings. Rakia, for instance, experiences explosive memory of the blood-stained razor blade used in the excision of her deceased sister. Rakia’s haunted dreams, fears, and anxieties about FGC and her subsequent decision not to undergo the procedure emanate from her experience of this weapon on her deceased sister. The razor blade leaves enduring psycho-emotional scars that traumatise its victims and observers of the trauma.



Fig. 12.2  The razor blade, framed in a close shot to evoke empathic distress. Film still (Grass between my Lips 2008)

The semiotics of the razor blade is important in the conceptualisation of FGC as mutilation. Unlike the professionalised and medicalised connotations of the scalpel used for corrective FGC, the razor blade denotes crudeness, danger, and unsafeness for two reasons. First, a razor blade’s lack of a safety handle limits the proximity between its user and victim thereby narrowing the field of view during excision and increasing the chances of irreparable damages to the vaginal area of the circumcised. Secondly, using a razor blade exposes both the circumciser and the circumcised to risks of contracting infections. Like Alima, Tuigi undergoes FGC at puberty, but with a knife sterilised by the spittle of the circumciser, which, though it might look a bit exaggerated, does make the razor knife connotatively point to the abject condition of the circumcised. Such visual representations are shocking and distressing to the viewers in a way that relates to Kaplan’s vicarious trauma (2011, p.  270). Not only are the images emotionally over-arousing, but the embodied abjection they evoke also provides ‘an affective basis for ethical dealing with others’ (Gibbs 2010, p. 202). The successive alternation of shots from the team of circumcisers, the anguished face and other body parts of the victims, the circumcision instrument, and concoctions in calabashes15 heighten viewers’ distress and increase viewers’ feelings of hopelessness and despair at the victims’ traumatic experiences.



Equally, the excision scenes (in close-up shots) reveal the full anguish and horrendous physical and emotional injuries exacted on the victims. For instance, as the viewers’ gaze travels with the camera as it lingers on the motionless and haemorrhaging body of Tuigi and settles on her blood-­ soaked thighs (see Fig. 12.3), viewers are not positioned as voyeurs to the image of excision but as witnesses who are vicariously traumatised by the goriness of the visual and the sheer inhumanity of the act. The graphic depiction of the blood-stained cloth and razor blade in Grass between my Lips and the razor knife, blood-soaked clothes and thighs of Tuigi in Like Cotton Twines provoke the sensibilities of viewers, to the point of evoking anger in viewers to the trauma created by these practices. In this way, Kaleka and Djansi’s weaponised razor blade and knife, close-up shots of blood, anguished countenances, and teary eyes do not only problematise and capture the generality of the practice of FGC, but they also barbarise and present African cultures as sites of trauma and atavistic acts.

Fig. 12.3  The motionless body of Tuigi after the procedure. Film still (Like Cotton Twines 2016)



Conclusion The power of these films to evoke the emotions of spectators lies in their contemporary re-creation of the traumatic harshness of FGC and the Trokosi practice. The narrative content and aesthetic medium provide different moments that corporeally engage viewers’ empathy to the distress of the victims and intersubjectively place an ethical burden on the viewers. The disquietude and abjection of the images of excision, distress of deity-­ servitude, and emotional incontinence of the characters engender vicarious distress in the viewers. This produces a moral understanding and self-reflexivity that enables viewers’ engagement with the victims’ suffering. The filmmakers connect viewers in a mind-body empathetic meld to the violence, trauma, and emotions of the characters. The empathy evoked then plays an important role in breaking down viewers’ stereotypes and inclinations to Othering, by allowing viewers to see the suffering of others as universal human phenomena. By so doing, the films underscore the potential of images and narratives of FGC and Trokosi to elicit vicarious trauma and other embodied emotions in the audience when re-enacted on screen. Also, because these practices are entrenched in the ethos of cultural practices, it has become important for the filmmakers to go beyond simply representing the traumatic experiences, as is done in documentaries, to imbue the fictional characters with traits that reflect their common humanity to help circumvent the habituation of the practices in a way that impacts on the attitudes and perceptions of viewers. More so, by undertaking the telling of these narratives, Leila Djansi (2016) and Amardeep Kaleka (2008) demonstrate that violence, trauma, and their resultant effects do not only reside in the usage of overt vigorous force but are contained in cultural practices that point to universal human suffering which can only be overcome if we see victims as ourselves, and not as Others.

Notes 1. In this article, I adopt the term female genital cutting or excision, a much more neutral, non-partisan, and ideologically decoloured variant, for the ritual practice of female genital removal/operation instead of the ­semantically deceptive variant—circumcision—or the pejorative option— mutilation. I avoided the notion of ‘circumcision’ for two reasons. Pragmatically, the mechanics of female genital cutting is no way comparable to the male counterpart where only the foreskin is removed. Also, within the context of the films, the Akan and Ewe variants, ‘twa’ and ‘tsò’



respectively, used by the narrative agents denote ‘cutting’ instead of mutilation or circumcision. I later address, albeit briefly, some of the challenges and dangers with these political variants. 2. FGC is also practised in some ethnic groups in the Middle East and Asia. However, it is rather prevalent on the African continent for various ethnic, religious, and cultural reasons, with Somalia, Djibouti, Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Mali, Sudan, and Sierra Leone being the most endemic. Isolated cases are also reported in Europe, Australia, and North America, particularly among migrants from countries where the practice is still prevalent. See UNICEF (2016). 3. Depending on the extent of tissue removal, the WHO has identified four types: clitoridectomy, excision, infibulation, and other. According to the WHO, of all these types of circumcision, infibulation—the removal of part or all of the external genitalia and stitching or narrowing of the vaginal opening—is the most dangerous. 4. In a recent BBC News coverage, Brigitte Sossou Perenyi, a former trokosi whose freedom was paid for by an American philanthropist, returned to Ghana to confront her parents and seek understanding into the century-­ long tradition, and why she was given out in atonement for a crime she did not commit; see BBC (2018). 5. The practice is known by different names across the West African coast. In Ghana, variations such as Trokosi, Woryokwe, Troxorvi, or Fiashidi exist. Among the Fons of Benin and Togo, for instance, the practice is referred to as Voodoosi or Vudusi. Ontological perspectives on the practice are contained in Botchway (2008). In the context of this chapter, Trokosi refers to the practice of atonement with virgin girls, while trokosi refers to a person offered to a shrine in atonement for offences committed by her family. 6. The term ‘fetish priest’, though derogatory, refers to revered traditional diviners who perform rituals with money, liquor, animals, and in some places, human slaves—trokosis. The fetish priests, the leaders of the Trokosi system, are considered the mediators between the living (in some cases the dead) and the gods; a virtue by which their pronouncements are considered unquestionable by the living. 7. These girls are practically raped under the guise of religious and spiritual symbolism. In the event of conception, the child fathered by a priest is subject to the discretionary use of the priest—often exploited sexually and physically, see Wiking (2009). 8. Aside international conventions, Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and other statutory provisions like the 1998 amendment to the Criminal Code 1960 (Act 29), the criminalisation of other harmful cultural practices—child betrothal and widowhood rites (1998), female genital mutilation (FGM) (1995), child abuse (1998)—and the Domestic Violence Act, 2007, Act 732 protect against gender-based violence.



9. Recent documentaries like The Cut: Exploring FGM (2018), Cut: Exposing FGM Worldwide (2017), and Trokosi (2014), treat FGM and Trokosi as developmental issues, often without local specificity. By abjectifying these practices, they also paradoxically abjectify the women who have undergone such procedures and, again, reify them as always already mutilated, which as well implies a ‘mutilated’ subjectivity or agency. Leila Djansi’s Like Cotton Twines (2016), for instance, falls victim to some of these ideological accusations. However, since this is not the focus of this chapter, I would reserve such for later exploration. 10. Stanlie M.  James and Claire Robertson (2002) explore these debates in their edited volume Genital cutting and transnational sisterhood: Disputing US polemics, and how the Western feminist representations often deny agency to African women, ignore their role in cultural institutions reproduced in part through FGC, and refuse to acknowledge the necessary leadership role they can play in any debate, discussion, or campaign as regards the possible transformation or elimination of the practice. 11. Grass Between My Lips is a Master of Arts Thesis film written and produced by the Ghanaian-American filmmaker Leila Djansi but directed by Amardeep Kaleka for the Film and Television Department, Savannah College of Arts and Design (2008). Available at . 12. This is one of Djansi’s overtly political films. Its critical exploration of culturally contestable issues positions her as political filmmaker. Filmed in the Volta Region of Ghana, the home of the Trokosi practice, the film was screened in the regional capital, Ho, after its theatrical release. 13. Although there are significant variations in the theorisation of spectatorial affective engagement with fictional characters and the modalities of its evocation, scholars recognise the relationship between film, spectators, and context to modulate pro-social behaviour. 14. Hysteria, in this context, refers to the physical manifestations (anguish, helplessness, frustration) of unconfronted traumatic memory of genital cutting (Freud and Breuer 1895). 15. Calabashes, made from the fruits of the white-flowered gourd or what is popularly known as long melon or Tasmanian bean, are receptacles or utensils typical of many West African households.

References Akyeampong, E 2001, ‘History, memory, slave-trade and slavery in Anlo (Ghana)’, Slavery and Abolition, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 1–24. Archampong, EA 2010, ‘Reconciliation of women’s rights and cultural practices: Polygamy in Ghana’, Commonwealth Law Bulletin, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 325–32.



Asomah, JY 2015, ‘Cultural rights versus human rights: a critical analysis of the trokosi practice in Ghana and the role of civil society’, African Human Rights Law Journal, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 129–49. Barker, JM 2009, The tactile eye: Touch and the cinematic experience, University of California Press, Berkerley and Los Angeles, California. Bastine, N 2012, ‘The role of the media in protecting women’s and children’s rights in democratic Ghana: Lensing the Trokosi system in Ghana’, Africa Media & Democracy Journal, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 1–23. Ben-Ari, N 2001, ‘Liberating girls from “Trokosi”: Campaign against ritual servitude in Ghana’, African Recovery, United Nations, vol. 15, no. 4, p. 26. Botchway, AN-K 2008, ‘Abolished by law—Maintained in practice: The Trokosi as practiced in parts of the Republic of Ghana’, FIU Law Review, vol. 3, no. 2, p. 369. British Broadcasting Corporation 2018, My stolen childhood—investigating Ghana’s practice of ‘trokosi’, BBC, 15 May, viewed 3 March 2019, . de Bruyn, D 2014, The performance of trauma in moving image art, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne. Carroll, N 2013a, ‘Moral change: fiction, film, and family’, in Choi, J & Frey, M (eds.), Cine-Ethics: Ethical Dimensions of Film Theory, Practice and Spectatorship, Routledge, New York, pp. 43–56. Carroll, N 2013b, ‘The ties that bind: characters, the emotions, and popular fictions’, in Minerva’s Night Out: phylosophy, pop culture, and moving image, A John Wiley & Sons, Malden, MA, pp.  40–63, https://doi. org/10.1002/9781118322925.ch3. Caruth, C 1995, Trauma: Explorations in memory, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Caruth, C 1996, Unclaimed experience: Trauma, narrative, and history, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Choi, J & Frey, M (eds.) 2013, Cine-ethics: Ethical dimensions of film theory, practice and spectatorship, Routledge, New York. Dellenborg, L 2004, ‘A reflection on the cultural meanings of female circumcision’, in S Arnfred (ed.), Re-thinking sexualities in Africa, Nordic Africa Institute, Uppsala, Sweden, pp. 79–94. Djansi, L 2016, Like cotton twines, DVD, W Valcin, L Djansi & A Djankui, Georgia, USA. Distributed by RLJ Entertainment. El Nossery, N & Hubbell, A (eds.) 2013, The unspeakable: Representations of trauma in Francophone literature and art, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne. Felman, S & Laub, D 1992, Testimony: crises of witnessing in literature, psychoanalysis, and history, Routledge, New York.



Freud, S & Breuer, J 1895, Studies on hysteria, Hogarth Press, London. Frye, M 1983, ‘In and Out of Harm’s Way’, in The politics of reality: Essays in feminist theory, Crossing Press, New York, pp. 52–83. Gibbs, A 2010, ‘After affect: Sympathy, synchrony, and mimetic communication’, in M Gregg & GJ Seigworth (eds.), The affect theory reader, Duke University Press, Durham and London, pp. 186–206. Goodall, J & Lee, C 2015, ‘Introduction’, in J Goodall & C Lee (eds.), Trauma and public memory, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, pp. 1–18. Guerin, F & Hallas, R 2007, ‘Introduction’, in F Guerin & R Hallas (eds.), The image and the witness: Trauma, memory and visual culture, Wallflower Press, London, pp. 1–22. Gyurácz, V 2017, ‘Domestic servitude and ritual slavery in West Africa from a human rights perspective’, African Human Rights Law Journal, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 89–113. Howusu, PA 2016, ‘The cry of trokosi girls in Ghana. A qualitative study of the trokosi practice in Ghana in light of diakonia and human rights’, Masters thesis, Diakonhjemmet University College. James, SM 1998, ‘Shades of othering: Reflections on female circumcision/genital mutilation’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 1031–48. James, SM & Robertson, CC (eds.) 2002, Genital cutting and transnational sisterhood: Disputing US polemics, University of Illinois Press, Illinois. Jolly, S, Cornwall, A & Hawkins, K 2013, ‘Introduction: Women, sexuality and the political pleasure of power’, in Jolly, S, Cornwall, A & Hawkins, K (eds.), Women, sexuality and the political power of pleasure, Zed Books, London, pp. 1–27. Kaleka, A 2008, Grass between my lips, YouTube, L Djansi, USA. Distributed by School of Digital Film and Digital Media, Savannah College of Arts and Design. Kaplan, EA 2011, ‘Empathy and trauma culture: Imaging catastrophe’, in Coplan, A & Goldie, P (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and psychological perspectives, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 255–76. Leys, R 2000, Trauma: A genealogy, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Lopes, DM 2011, ‘An empathic eye’, in Coplan, A & Goldie, P (eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and psychological perspectives, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 119–33. Mende, J 2018, ‘Normative and contextual feminism. Lessons from the debate around female genital mutilation/cutting’, Gender Forum, Special Issue: On Cliteridectomy, vol. 67, pp. 47–69. Mistiaen, V 2013, Virgin wives of the fetish Gods—Ghana’s Trokosi tradition, Thomson Reuters, viewed May 8, 2018, .



Nikro, NS & Hegasy, S 2017, ‘Introduction: Memory between lieu and milieu’, in Nikro, NS & Hegasy, S (eds.), The social life of memory: Violence, trauma, and testimony in Lebanon and Morocco, Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 1–24. Nussbaum, M 1996, ‘Compassion: The basic social emotion’, Social Philosophy and Policy, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 27–58. OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UNECA, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNIFEM & WHO 2008, Eliminating female genital mutilation: An Interagency Statement, World Health Organisation, Geneva. Pattison, S 2000, Shame: Theory, therapy, theology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Plantinga, C 2009, Moving viewers: American film and the spectator’s experience, University of California Press, Berkeley. Radstone, S 2000, ‘Screening trauma: Forrest Gump, film and memory’, in Radstone, S (ed.), Memory and methodology, Bloomsbury Academic, London, pp. 79–108. Rossi, B 2016, Reconfiguring slavery: West African trajectories, Oxford University Press, Oxford. Sinnerbrink, R 2016, Cinematic ethics exploring ethical experience through film, Routledge, New York. Smith, GM 2003, Film structure and the emotion system, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Sobchack, VC 2004, Carnal thoughts: Embodiment and moving image culture, University of California Press, Berkeley. Stadler, J 2013, ‘Cinema’s compassionate gaze: Empathy, affect, and aesthetics in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’, in Choi, J & Frey, M (eds.), Cine-Ethics: Ethical dimenstions of film theory, practice and spectatorship, Routledge, New York, pp. 37–52. UNICEF 2016, Female genital mutilation/cutting: a global concern, UNICEF, New York. Van der Kolk, BA & Van der Hart, O 1995, ‘The intrusive past: The flexibility of memory and the engraving of trauma’, in Caruth, C (ed.), Truama: Exploration in memory, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, pp. 158–82. Walker, A & Parmar, P 1993, Warrior marks, New York, Distributed by Women Make Movies. Wiking, S 2009, ‘From slave wife of the Gods to “ke te pam tem eng”. Trokosi seen through the eyes of the participants’, Master thesis, Malmö University.


Screen Memories in True Crime Documentary: Trauma, Bodies, and Places in The Keepers (2017) and Casting JonBenet (2017) Bonnie Evans

Introduction In 2017, in the wake of the recent wave of popularity surrounding true crime narratives, two true crime documentaries were released on Netflix, each of which examined the reverberations through time of the unsolved murder of a long-dead female victim: The Keepers (White 2017) and Casting JonBenet (Green 2017). However, the ways in which each documentary constructs these lingering reverberations of trauma differs substantially, as seen from the opening scenes of each documentary. The first of these, The Keepers, is a seven-part documentary series, directed by Ryan White, which investigates the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun who taught at Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

B. Evans (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




It opens on an interview with investigative journalist Tom Nugent in his cluttered, dimly lit attic, where he has stored all his files relating to his 1990s investigation into the murder. He is filmed walking amongst overflowing boxes, rifling through them, showing the camera his newspaper articles covering the case. Towards the end of the interview he notes that 47 years after the murder, the case remains unsolved, ‘and we all go on day after day, and the boil continues to swell, and the people who were injured most deeply continue to struggle and suffer, and the public continues to ask “what happened?”’. He continues: ‘But these clues to what it was linger on in a place like this attic. Those objects hold that energy and they twist and turn you in the wind, and you start asking what was–? What is the past? What was it?’ Nugent’s words bring forth the sense that material places, things, and people hold traces of past events; that trauma lingers and reaches from the past into the present. The second true crime documentary, Casting JonBenet, a feature documentary which takes as its subject the notorious 1996 murder of American child beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, was released in the same year, but opens remarkably differently. The first shot of the documentary is a static line of chairs facing the camera, up against a non-descript plywood wall—a placeless place, lacking all specificity. A little girl in a pageant costume, dressed to mimic JonBenét Ramsey, runs forward into shot, and takes a seat, followed by another, and another, until eight girls wearing the same costume sit together on the chairs, talking to one another. The next shot is of one of the girls walking up to a microphone, and still dressed as JonBenét Ramsey, she asks the off-screen filmmakers, chillingly, ‘Do you know who killed JonBenét Ramsey?’ Unlike the corporeal, material specificity of body and place that characterises The Keepers, Casting JonBenet, in immediately introducing a blank set, and multiple actors playing the same role—the real, and deceased, JonBenét Ramsey—foregrounds a far more unstable relationship between place, body, and memory. These moments reveal both the documentaries’ mutual interest in traumatic events, but also their different treatment of both the representation of these events as present in memory, and as related to place. In this chapter, I explore the relationship between trauma, bodies, and places in the true crime documentaries The Keepers and Casting JonBenet, through analysing moments of memory on screen where the traumatic past is remembered, resurfaces, or is reconstructed. I have used the term ‘screen memory’ in the title of this chapter primarily to refer to memory as represented or enacted on cinematic or televisual screens, in a film and



television studies context (such as in Berry and Sawada 2016). However, as film scholar Dijana Jelača (2016) notes, the term ‘screen’ has multiple meanings, several of which are relevant to the discussion of memory and trauma. Jelača (2016, p. 12) writes that her use of the term ‘dislocated screen memory’ borrows from Freud’s notion of ‘screen memory’, which is a memory that stands in for a suppressed memory, where certain memories act ‘as screens for unwanted, more troubling, or complicated recollections’ and may have been ‘altered by the mind in order to mediate or accommodate some aspects of more troubling, repressed memories’. However, these do not function only to conceal. In his 2009 book Michael Rothberg (p. 3) argues that, rather than conceptualising memory as competing for attention with other memories, we should consider it multidirectional, ‘as subject to ongoing negotiation, cross-referencing, and borrowing; as productive and not privative’. Rothberg (2009, p. 12) considers Freud’s notion of screen memory to function multidirectionally, and points out that ‘the displacement that takes place in screen memory (indeed, in all memory) functions as much to open up lines of communication with the past as to close them off’. Whilst Rothberg (2009) conceptualises screen memory as individual, in contrast to his focus on multidirectional collective memory, a 2013 special issue of the International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society (Freeman et al. 2013, p. 1) argues that the concept of screen memory may also be mobilised in collective terms, ‘to both conceptualize and trouble contemporary notions of social memory’. Furthermore, Freud’s notion of screen memory may have particular relevance to cinema, and as Jelača (2016, p. 13), goes on to say: We might deploy Freud’s screen memory as an analytic that may illuminate the relationship between the cinematic screen and traumatic memory, or, rather, illuminate something about the dynamics of cinematic memories as both revealing and concealing, authentic and inauthentic at the same time.

Here Jelača points to the potential use of the term ‘screen memory’ to describe how memories, as represented on screens, may also function as screens, both hiding and indicating traumatic memory. My use of the term throughout this chapter seeks to foreground this relationship between traumatic memory, both individual and collective, and the cinematic screen, particularly their shared, multidirectional capacity to both conceal and reveal the past.



In both documentaries, one inciting traumatic event reveals other, hidden traumas in the lives of those around it, the effects of which linger in bodies and places. Cathy Caruth (1996, p. 4) writes that ‘trauma is not locatable in the simple violent or original event in an individual’s past, but rather in the way that its very unassimilated nature—the way it was precisely not known in the first instance—returns to haunt the survivor later on’. In his phenomenological discussion of place and trauma, Dylan Trigg (2012, p.  22) similarly uses the language of haunting, arguing that the past emerges in the present through the trauma site, or as he describes it, the ‘ruin’, which houses ‘what is absent: in effect, a non-memory’ and that ‘the ruins occupy the spectral trace of an event left behind, serving to testify to the past through a logic of voids, disruptions, and hauntings’. In her chapter of this book, Annie Pohlman also invokes the notion of haunting to describe trauma sites, specifically the mass graves of those murdered in Indonesia’s anti-Communist purges; her interview subjects believe that the sites are haunted by the spirits of those buried there. My use of the term here, in line with Trigg’s, is more metaphorical, but similarly invokes a conjunction of bodily feeling and memory, the sense of trauma’s physical presence in places. In this chapter, I explore the ghostly presence of trauma in these documentaries, arguing that their investigation of traumatised bodies and places results in the materialisation of traumatic memory as an important screen presence in recent true crime documentary.

Contemporary True Crime Documentary and the Scene of the Crime The true crime documentary has recently experienced a burst of mainstream popularity amongst Anglo-Western audiences, beginning with The Staircase (de Lestrade 2004) and reaching cultural prominence with widely seen American examples such as The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Jarecki 2015) and Making a Murderer (Ricciardi and Demos 2015). These documentaries, and contemporary true crime narratives generally, represent a point where trauma discourses and contemporary popular culture intersect. True crime has been described by Jean Murley (2008, p. 2), not as a genre, but instead as ‘a multifaceted, multigenre aesthetic formulation, a poetics of murder narration’, melding the conventions of many genres, such as documentary, crime fiction, thriller, horror, and trauma cinema. However, in 2016, documentary scholar



Stella Bruzzi (2016, p. 250) asserted that contemporary true crime texts, such as documentaries and podcasts, whilst diverse in their styles and topics, loosely constitute a new genre in that they ‘share common concerns around the law and how it can be represented, the truth, evidence and miscarriages of justice’. In dealing with murders and other crimes, these documentaries are inherently concerned with traumatic events, and the memories of those events. Cultural theorist Mark Seltzer (2007, p.  35) locates the appeal of true crime in what he terms ‘wound culture’, which he defines as ‘the public spectacle of torn and private bodies and torn and private persons,’ where distinctions between private and public are radically eroded. Drawing on Seltzer’s idea of ‘wound culture’, Anita Biressi (2004, p.  405) argues that in attempting to represent the unrepresentable—trauma, memory, and fear—true crime documentary ‘renders private trauma knowable via public narratives’. But this revelation is not done in the realm of the present; the true crime documentary always refers backwards, to the event and to memories of it. These documentaries, to use Annette Kuhn’s term, seem to engage in a type of memory work. Kuhn (2002, p. 4) states that, although the past is gone, it is not entirely lost to us, and ‘the past is like the scene of a crime: if the deed itself is irrevocable, its traces may still remain’. In true crime texts, the traces of the past are often connected to the notion of place. In relation to this, Seltzer (2007, p. 3) writes that ‘true crime is premised on an inventory of the aftermath and a return to the scene of the crime’, suggesting that place, the ‘scene of the crime’, is central to the project of true crime. Similarly, Stella Bruzzi (2016, p. 253) remarks that within the contemporary true crime documentary genre, there is a persistent theme that ‘returning to the site where an event, in particular a traumatic event, occurred will bring both subjects and audiences closer to understanding what “really happened”’. Bruzzi’s statement demonstrates the depth of linkages in these documentaries between bodies, places, and memory in explorations of traumatic events, but also reveals the investigative role of these explorations—the hope that the past can be both known and resolved. However, this does not seem to be entirely the case in The Keepers and Casting JonBenet; though these documentaries both may investigate their central crimes, their explorations of traumatic memory exceed the evidential value of the recollections, incorporating elements that give these screen representations of memory an experiential quality.



Caruth (1996, p.  4) states of trauma that it ‘is always the story of a wound that cries out, that addresses us in the attempt to tell us of a reality or truth that is not otherwise available’. In the following discussion, I look at the different ways that these two true crime documentaries address spectators in screening the story of the wound, engaging with, as Trigg describes, a logic of voids, disruptions, and hauntings. This chapter will explore each documentary in turn, drawing out the complex interrelations and oppositions in their treatment of the intersection between trauma, memory, and place.

The Keepers and Trauma’s Ghostly Materiality The Keepers, in its investigation of the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik in Baltimore, explores specific, meaningful places, and their connections with bodies, in order to reveal the traumatic events surrounding the murder and the memories that linger in the minds of those involved. These places range from the personal to the institutional—from the forest, to the grave, to the school, to the houses, to the streets of Baltimore city itself— and are shown in contemporary footage and reconstructed in re-­ enactments. The documentary follows a number of investigator figures, including the amateur sleuth duo of Cesnik’s former students, Gemma Hoskins and Abbie Schaub, and freelance investigative journalist Tom Nugent, as they explain the case and the evidence and investigate Cesnik’s murder. The documentary reveals not simply information relating to Cesnik’s murder but also the existence of several other, related, traumatic events. This includes a possible connection between Cesnik’s murder and the murder of another woman in the area around the same time, Joyce Malecki. Importantly, it also explores the possibility that Cesnik’s murder was related to sexual abuse being perpetrated against the students at Archbishop Keough High School, the all-girls Catholic school she taught at, by Catholic priests Father Joseph Maskell and Father Neil Magnus. The documentary interviews several women who allege that they were abused by Father Maskell and other priests at the school. Among them, the most prominent interviewees include Jean Wehner and Teresa Lancaster, the two formerly anonymous plaintiffs (Jane Doe and Jane Roe, respectively) in an unsuccessful 1990s lawsuit against the Baltimore Catholic Church, in which they alleged that Maskell had abused them. Several students attest to Cesnik’s likely knowledge of the abuse, and the documentary suggests she was killed as a result of her attempts to



intervene. Wehner’s testimony of recovered memory is particularly key in the documentary, in that she claims that as a teenager she was led to Cesnik’s body and threatened with a similar fate should she reveal the abuse she was suffering. These traumatic memories, as revealed in interview, are juxtaposed in the documentary against material alleging a culture of permissiveness surrounding sexual abuse in the Baltimore Catholic Church. Additionally, the film explores statutes of limitations in the legal system for historical sexual abuse. These moments thus serve to reveal both personal suffering and systemic problems in the criminal justice system and in the Catholic Church. Meaningful sites have special significance in the documentary and are visited by the camera (without an on-screen figure), by investigative figures such as Hoskins and Schaub, or by witnesses and interviewees, who are filmed walking through and physically inhabiting these important places. One such instance involves Gemma Hoskins, who meets with James Scannell, a retired police officer who attended the scene where Cesnik’s body was found. Scannell leads Hoskins, amateur investigator Alan Horn, and the camera crew to the isolated, wooded site where Cesnik’s body was found, and the documentary contrasts archival photographs of the crime scene with the contemporary footage—in both, it is snowing. A long overhead shot of the scene begins the sequence, and Scannell leads them to where the body was found; his descriptions of the day he found the body are supported by crime scene photography. The absence of Cesnik’s body at the site—and its deliberately blurred presence in the crime scene photography shown in the documentary—conceals the site’s traumatic history whilst simultaneously evoking it. This empty space functions, to use Freud’s term, somewhat as a ‘screen’, in that it both conceals and indicates traumatic memory. Patricia Violi (2012, p.  37), writing about memorial museums, states that ‘trauma sites exist factually as material testimonies of the violence and horror that took place there’, and that visitors experience the indexicality of these places as ‘traces of the past, imprints of what actually happened there’ (Violi 2012, p. 39). The documentary gives spectators access to this experience, showing Hoskins’ reaction to the site but also, in lingering shots of the landscape, constructing viewer as both visitor and witness. Similarly, the documentary follows Don Malecki—the brother of another woman who was killed around the same time, Joyce Malecki—to the side of the road, by the forest where Malecki’s body was found. As Pat Malecki, another brother, describes identifying her body at the crime scene, the camera ventures into the



forest, pulling close to the lush greenery of the foliage, advancing on the banks of the river where her body was found. The documentary cuts between Pat, archival photography of Joyce when she was alive, crime scene photography, and the present-day forest as he describes the sight of her face that day as the only memory that he has of her, that ‘it never ever goes away’, that it is ‘just like it was yesterday’. Biressi (2004, p.  407) notes that, in true crime documentaries, repeated shots of the landscape ‘constitute a form of psychic topography’ and ‘landscape becomes imbued with meaning—in this case memorials for traumatic events’. In The Keepers, these lingering shots of the forest similarly evoke the traumatic past. On the one hand, these sequences aid the explanatory aim of the documentary in conveying spatial information to spectators. However, this does not account for all of the footage included in the documentary; Hoskins mentions that it was meaningful for her to go to the site where Cesnik’s body was found, and the lingering shots of place details give no relevant evidential information. What emerges from these moments is a sense of experience. Violi (2012, p.  39) writes that when people visit memorial museums constructed on the actual location of historical trauma: Visitors know they are in the very place where terrible events occurred, and this knowledge contributes to a complex, multifaceted perception of it. Visitors not only see something of this terrible past, they also imagine that which cannot be seen.

If we replace the word ‘visitor’ in her account with something like ‘spectator’ or ‘viewer’, this spectral description becomes applicable to the spectatorial experience of viewing footage of trauma sites, where spectators are given to imagine how these places, from their appearance on screen, would feel if they were also visiting the site, and to imagine the spectral presence of trauma that resides in these places. Furthermore, the materiality of the images brings a sense of the physical presence of these places to the screen. It forcefully insists on the reality of the image, and thus the reality of past trauma that lingers in the contemporary world, which these empty spaces simultaneously erase and signify. The documentary also uses interviews prominently, where participants share information, but also memories and personal experiences. Although they do not physically visit sites of trauma, the interview presents testimony of trauma in new places that come to enable trauma’s fragmented, incomplete expression. They materialise trauma by linking it indexically to



material bodies and places, which, as documentary scholar Bill Nichols (1994, p.  4) notes, ‘authenticates testimony now about what happened then’. The Keepers includes interviews with law enforcement, and family and friends of Cesnik and Malecki, but the most prominent interviews are those with former students of Archbishop Keough High School, where Cesnik taught English. Many describe, graphically, the abuse that they allege that Father Maskell and others perpetrated against them while they were students at the school in the 1960s and 1970s. Of all the victims of abuse interviewed in the documentary, the most significant and lengthy interviews are those with Jean Wehner, the woman who claims that she was led to Cesnik’s dead body as a teenager, and who has previously been known to the public only as ‘Jane Doe’. The second episode of the documentary is primarily composed of interviews with Wehner and the episode opens with the revelation of her identity, using close-up shots of body and place to establish an intimate visual language throughout the segment. The sequence begins with close-ups of a tree outside a house, swaying in the wind, followed by a woman’s hands, arms, and body (but not her face), which are seen making tea, boiling a kettle on the stove top, and rummaging in the kitchen cabinet. The rhythms of everyday life, of the home, are filmed in close-up which temporarily preserves the woman’s anonymity, but also creates intimacy given their location in the home, a private place. The doorbell rings, and investigative journalist Tom Nugent arrives at the home to interview her. When the woman goes to answer the door, we see the kitchen and the dining table where they will later sit. These moments set the scene for the coming interview, but also situate spectators as part of this homely scene, as materially imbricated within the intimate spaces of her home. Nugent begins interviewing the woman in her home, and during the conversation her identity is revealed, showing her face and naming her as Jean Wehner. Before the revelation of her identity, however, the camera lingers on the woman’s hands clutching each other on the table, wrinkled with age, cutting to an extreme close-up of the woman’s eyes and nose, and then back to her hands. These moments establish an intimate visual style, with focus on both place and body, body-in-place, that continue throughout Wehner’s many interviews, and in interviews with others who experienced sexual abuse at the school such as Teresa Lancaster (the plaintiff ‘Jane Roe’ in the lawsuit). Tanya  Horeck (2007, p.  144) notes that in the Nick Broomfield documentary Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003), extreme close-ups of Wuornos are presented in order to provide evidence of her



monstrosity, but also are offered as ‘indicators of traumatic experience’. Close-ups of Wehner similarly offer the face and its expressions, and the voice of the interviewee, as bodily evidence of trauma. They magnify the intimacy of testimony, allowing audiences to, as Horeck (2007, p. 144) states of the close-ups of Wuornos’s face in interviews, read ‘her face as a “text”’. But beyond evidence, these images also embody ‘haptic visuality’, a phrase Laura U.  Marks (2000, p. xi) coins to describe a visual style that foregrounds that ‘vision itself can be tactile, as though one were touching a film with one’s eyes’. Marks (2000, p. 130) writes that ‘senses that are closer to the body, like the sense of touch, are capable of storing powerful memories that are lost to the visual’, and Wehner’s testimony of bodily trauma and recovered memory seems to reflect these notions that bodily memory may surpass a visual memory. The camera work expresses this idea in the use of close-up shots of hands, glasses, and faces, which fragment the body but also invite an embodied position of spectatorship, a tactile response. Janet Walker (2005, p. 19) characterises trauma cinema as films which deal with ‘traumatic events in a nonrealist mode characterised by disturbance and fragmentation of the film’s narrative and stylistic regimes’, in opposition to Hollywood realist films. Walker (2005, p. 190), argues that, rather than being satisfied with straightforward documentary representation, or concluding that the traumatic past is unrepresentable, trauma cinema instead ‘conveys the fantasy elements of memory and the historiographic frailty of physical properties through an aesthetic that is fragmentary, sensory and abstract’. Walker’s aesthetic characteristics of trauma cinema—fragmentation, disruption, and self-reflexivity—echo the fractured and uncertain quality of trauma memories. The Keepers focuses these aesthetic techniques of fracture on the body and the home, through the use of camera work that both segments the body and draws tactile attention to its parts and their actions, which seem to affirm the veracity of the spoken testimony. This testimony can thus be theorised as not only verbal, but bodily, revealing the repressed past and the lingering effects of trauma as a kind of bodily haunting. These intimate revelations are enabled by the intimacy of Wehner’s and other victims’ homes as interview sites, which, in their humble everydayness both renders their testimonies shocking and attests to their authenticity. Wehner’s testimony given in her home evokes for spectators a sense of the spectral presence of the trauma that remains, decades after the events.



This kind of relationship to the past, the attempt to make subjective place memory a material presence, is mirrored by the documentary’s use of re-enactment sequences. Re-enactment sequences in The Keepers entirely lack narrative structure or dialogue, and are stylised in black and white, matching the black and white photography and video footage of the school students shown throughout the documentary, the colouring creating a visual connection between the reconstruction and the past captured in the photography. The school environment is restaged in the scenes of empty corridors (with the audio of a bustling school hallway played over top), or in an approximation of Father Maskell’s office. Close-­ ups of objects in the space are similar to those within the interview spaces, and given that people are missing from the scenes, they are seemingly designed to evoke a bodily feeling and aesthetic experience of place, whilst drawing attention to the elusive past captured in the images. Michael Mayerfeld Bell gives a useful account of the phenomenology of place using the metaphor of ghosts, the sense of a haunting, in order to describe the material, emotional, and bodily experience of places. Bell (1997, p. 813) writes that ‘ghosts—that is, the sense of the presence of those who are not physically there—are a ubiquitous aspect of the phenomenology of place’. These shots of Maskell’s office reconstructed—close-ups of a pair of glasses, for instance—seem to evoke not simply the look of a place, but its felt quality, the ghostliness of past presences, and in this case, of the traumatic events that occurred. Mark’s notion of haptic visuality seems also to animate this imagery, the experiential sense of place emphasised by this visual language of tactility. Such re-enactments have an affective function, as Nichols (2008, p. 88) discusses, in that they ‘vivify the sense of lived experience’ in the events discussed, making ‘what it feels like to occupy a certain situation, to perform a certain action, to adopt a particular perspective visible and more vivid’. These re-enactment sequences make it possible to feel into the events and places; to imagine the physical, bodily sensations involved, the sensory and emotional experiences. Additionally, many re-enactments in The Keepers include people, especially those which accompany the testimony of trauma in interviews, such that audio of trauma testimony overlays the re-enactments; the people in the re-enactments remain, always, silent, and their faces are obscured. The re-enactments are impressionistic and fragmentary, perhaps because the detailed re-enactment of sexual abuse of young girls would be confronting and ethically fraught, but additionally, this has the effect of mimicking traumatic memory. Rather than faithfully re-enacting events, these



re-­enactments seek to resurrect the past places, feelings, and bodies in their re-enactment of memory. As mentioned, the actors do not speak or show their faces, and the effect of these absences is that viewers are able to insert with their imagination the correct faces, which have become familiar in the documentary through its use of interview and family photography. The most prominent presence in the re-enactments is Wehner, who is played by a teenage girl, around the age she would have been in the events discussed, who wears a school uniform and has the style of long straight hair that spectators have already seen in school photography of Wehner. The re-enactments feature flashes of Wehner walking through a corridor, or opening a door, or entering a church; these small moments may or may not link exactly with the oral testimony overlaid onto the segment. These re-enactments also seem to function similarly to Freud’s ‘screen memory’, in presenting small snippets of action surrounding the traumatic event, in place of the traumatic event, and thus screening off visual confirmation of the disturbing testimony. Wehner’s prominent presence in the re-enactments, alongside their use of close-ups, indicates that these re-enactments do not simply represent what happened or provide a vivification of a plausible series of events. Instead, they materialise recollections of interviewees, subjective memory, and indicate this through the use of greyscale, suggesting pastness but also their status as traumatic memory. This goes some way towards accounting for the style of the re-enactments, in that traumatic memory is often unstable and incomplete (Walker 2005, p. 4). Walker (2005, p. 59) writes that in films which depict incest trauma, the heroine’s memories are ‘portrayed using editorial fragmentation […] and general ambiguity that characterises traumatic memory images’. Re-enactments in The Keepers similarly create ambiguity, both in their content—for instance, Wehner’s inability to remember what Brother Bob, another abusive priest she believes sexually assaulted her, looked like is reflected in the little visual detail he receives in the re-enactments—but also in their style. The fragmented, incomplete, repetitive re-enactments attempt in this way to recreate experiential memories of past times, events, and places. The Keepers, in contemporary footage and in these re-enactment sequences, suggests the significance of specific, material places to traumatic memory, and in doing so, brings traumatic memory to the screen.



Place, Trauma, and Public Memory in Casting JonBenet Like The Keepers, Casting JonBenet is similarly about a single murder, which leads to the revelation of a wider net of trauma. Stylistically, though, the documentary radically reorganises the formula of the contemporary true crime documentary as demonstrated by The Keepers. Casting JonBenet documents the process of casting actors for re-enactments of various scenes from the JonBenét Ramsey murder case. The infamous case concerns the unsolved murder of six-year-old girl JonBenét Ramsey, of Boulder, Colorado, on 26 January 1996. After her mother, Patsy Ramsey, reported JonBenét missing to the police on the morning of 26 January, JonBenét’s body was found by her father, John Ramsey, in the basement of the family home. JonBenét had a head injury and had been strangled. Over the years, aspects of the case have gained significant notoriety, including the existence of an unusual ransom note, and JonBenét’s participation in child beauty pageants. The case was covered extensively by the media, throwing the Ramsey family, who have maintained their innocence, under public suspicion for involvement in her murder. In Casting JonBenet, the actors, who are all from Boulder, Colorado, are interviewed during the audition process. They reveal their thoughts on the case, their beliefs as to the guilt or innocence of prominent figures in the Ramsey case, such as John and Patsy Ramsey, and the ways in which the case interweaves with their own lives and traumatic experiences. The documentary also presents several re-enactments of key moments in the case, using a variety of different actors cast in each role. As the details of the case are well known to an American audience, and the case continues to maintain a high profile in Western media, Casting JonBenet spends little time on overt exposition, weaving any explanation of the case within the interviews and re-­ enactments. This gives the documentary space to explore not simply the details of the case, but instead, to delve into the way the case has puzzled and emotionally affected the American public. The unique premise of the documentary creates the context for Casting JonBenet’s reflexive treatment of its interviews. The actors interviewed in the film readily give their opinions about the details of the murder and the guilt or innocence of the Ramsey family, and many actors reveal some personal connection to the Ramsey case. Furthermore, several interviewees subsequently reveal their own personal traumatic experiences, as prompted by speculation of the Ramsey case. A woman describes her



history of sexual molestation, domestic violence, and the death of her children; another woman reveals that her brother was murdered, and that her parents met with the Ramsey family as parents of murdered children; a man describes the experience of waking up beside the dead body of his girlfriend, who had suffered fatal liver failure during the night. Marc Francis and Linnéa Hussein (2017, p. 35) note about the documentary that when an actor auditions (for instance) for Patsy Ramsey, the structure of the interviews and re-enactments constructs a ‘“performative triptych” of Character/Actor/Person’ that ‘allows audiences to observe three phenomena at once: the indexical residue of the original narrative (Patsy Ramsey), the interpretative possibilities (Patsy Auditionee), and the recollection of what happened twenty years ago via its felt impact on a particular civilian (Herself)’. Francis and Hussein (2017, p.  36) note that in presenting these actors who have been shaped by the murder, and ‘whose onscreen lives here shape popular memory of the JonBenét murder’, the film ‘essentially documents how a story is made’. The Ramsey case becomes in this way a kind of folk or ghost story, an urban myth heavy with meanings that seem to be in excess of its raw events. Goodall and Lee (2015, p. 5) describe public memory as ‘memory disseminated—even formed— by these diverse but ultimately compromised sources or institutions and in a suite of “locations” that might be recognised as constituting various sections of the public sphere or even various public spheres’. Casting JonBenet, in its multiple interviews with members of the Boulder city public, makes the formation of public memory visible. The documentary inter-cuts between interviews with different people (in visually identical settings, sitting in the same place), without on-screen title cards indicating their names or other identifying information, such that they almost seem to be finishing each other’s sentences. They share physical space, auditory and bodily space, and are mostly nameless, which renders these individual testimonies in some way collective, a choral arrangement of testimony. Thus, the documentary explores not simply the isolated traumatic event of the Ramsey case, but rather, the multiple traumas that violence and abuse have left behind, a plurality of traumatic experience. The blank surroundings or re-enactment sets in which these interviews occur contributes to this plurality, in lacking the specificity of interviewees’ individual homes as in The Keepers. Each of the interviewees, as mentioned previously, is from Boulder, Colorado, the same town in which the Ramsey family lived. Francis and Hussein (2017, p. 37) write of these interviews that ‘the meaning of the murder dwells differently within



each actor, becoming entryways into their own past vicissitudes and complicated ties to their community’. Their discussion of the Ramsey case implicates each person as a member of the same place-bound community as the Ramsey family, to which they link their own trauma. Thus, what emerges is an oral history of the Ramsey case, as understood by the town of Boulder, as woven into the town’s discourse. It is incorporated into the life narratives of each person within it, together with those people’s traumatic experiences, the traumatic past brought powerfully into the present with the use of the Ramsey case as a framing device. Like in The Keepers, Casting JonBenet chronicles an inciting traumatic incident, an outbreak of violence, which is the catalyst for the revelation of other traumas, unrelated but for thematic resonance. These traumas of Boulder come to characterise the place, to haunt it, and to express the pain of its residents. These multiplicities are also present in the film’s re-enactment sequences. The very word re-enactment may suggest its link to trauma; it is the ‘re’, the repetition, the notion of ‘again’ that characterises its ontological mode. If in interviews, trauma haunts the bodies and places on screen, then re-enactment forms its ghostly apparition. Re-enactments effectively make material the traumatic events long passed, using actors and sets in place of the historical people and places. Bruzzi (2016, p. 270) writes that re-enactments in true crime documentary ‘are not just about looking again; they are concerned with discovery, unravelling and re-­ examining’. This quote suggests the investigatory function of re-­ enactments as a way to uncover new knowledge from existing information. Casting JonBenet seeks not to persuade viewers of a particular set of events, or to explain evidence. The multiple versions of each re-enactment, culminating in a final sequence where multiple versions of Christmas night at the Ramsey house play out intercut with each other and eventually, on the same soundstage, open up interpretations rather than present a single dominant one. I suggest that the use of re-enactments in Casting JonBenet seeks not to uncover the truth of what happened to JonBenét Ramsey, but instead to explore the multidirectional layers of memory and trauma that surround public memory of the case, and the ways that these memories of traumatic events may linger in communities, through performance. In Casting JonBenet, re-enactments deliberately and reflexively confront the conventions of cinematic realism and the re-enactment itself. Through using multiple actors for each role, the documentary draws attention to the constructedness of its re-enactments. As Francis and Hussein (2017) note, in Casting JonBenet, the auditioning segments



require actors to slip between performing and interviewee modes, creating what they describe as a performative triptych, such that the separation of performance and person breaks down. However, this does not homogenise the performances and, in fact, in viewing several versions of the same re-enacted sequence, what becomes clear is the depth of difference between the performances, the varying ways that grief, guilt, and culpability are imagined and performed by each actor in relation to the events, which present real (of which there is a verifiable record, such as interview notes or television broadcast) and hypothetical scenarios. In these varying repetitions, the sequence points to the unresolvedness of the narrative, the many possible truths. This plurality displaces the Ramsey narrative from its original events and referents, expressive of both the trauma of JonBenét’s murder but also the multiple experiences with trauma that the actors have had. The ‘performative triptych’ is in this way not only a question of role, as Francis and Hussein (2017) focus on, but also of body. Discussing re-­ enactment, Nichols (1994, p. 4) describes a ‘body too many’ problem, in which the actors whose bodies we see on screen ‘are also ghosts or simulacra of others who have already acted out their parts’. Linked to this concept, Nichols (2008, p.  74) describes in re-enactment ‘the uncanny sense of a repetition of what remains historically unique’, and notes that in this case a ‘specter haunts the text’. The re-enactments in Casting JonBenet, rather than mitigating this ‘body too many’ affect, seem intended to intensify the haunting. This is most central in the main performance, a montage in which the many iterations of the Ramsey family and potential murderers act out various hypothetical scenes in the life of the Ramsey family. These scenes take place before and after the murder and comprise many different narratives of how the murder could have played out, the multiple potentialities of the past laid bare for spectators. Lacking a single coherent narrative, the focus shifts towards the bodies, faces, and sounds of the performances, the affective qualities of the performances expressing trauma’s bodily feeling itself. This sequence transitions to one in which all of the various iterations of the Ramsey family play their roles in the same space—the Ramsey house set—at the same time. The many pairs of John and Patsy cry and fight, a cacophonous, heteroglossic, contradictory display of performances. The shot cuts backwards—spectators can now see the camera that has taken the previous shots, and the Ramsey house set in its entirety with the soundstage beyond it. The sight of the house as a film set reinforces the performative and reflexive aspects of the image, and underscores the spectrality of the images, their ghostly displacement. In



this re-enactment, the Ramsey house comes to incorporate all possible versions of the Ramsey family’s traumatic event, but more so, all of the actors and the traumatic events that have shaped their lives. Their performances both show several versions of the Ramsey narrative, and contain emotions and actions we may intuit, express, or act out other memories, other lives. What seems to be re-enacted here is both public memory of the murder case and the personal traumatic memories of actors, as spectators may imagine they can glimpse through the performance. Indeed, this reading is implicitly suggested by testimony within the documentary, such as actors mentioning that they would ‘draw on’ a certain life experience during the acting process. In one such example, an actress auditioning for the role of Patsy explicitly refers to this dynamic between acting, truth, bodies, and trauma, which I quote here in full: It’s hard for me, sitting here talking about it as myself. To not just—I mean, I’m holding back weeping over the loss, you know. Because I myself have lost three children so I—I know what that feels like. So when that woman [Patsy Ramsey] looked in the camera or was talking to Larry King or whoever she was talking to or sitting in that interrogation room, she was, she was, you know—and this is coming from an acting point of view, someone who believes that in order to act, you tell the truth, you know, you look in the camera and you tell the truth. You believe, you commit, you—you are that person, you are 100% there. Committed. When she was there—to me, it was the poorest acting job—one of the poorest acting jobs I’ve ever seen (0:53:11–0:54:19).

This statement seems to encapsulate the documentary’s central concern: the relationship between acting, truth, bodies, and trauma. The actress begins with a statement of how her personal traumatic experience, that of losing three children, affects her emotional relationship to the case. She makes a judgement about Patsy’s guilt (as is common throughout the documentary) by reference to her philosophy on acting, implying that Patsy’s public performances of innocence were poor because acting relies on telling the truth. These two aspects of the statement, when viewed in conjunction with her performance as Patsy in the montage, seem to invite the understanding that her performance is in some way inflected by ‘truth’ or by the lived experience of trauma.



Walker (2005, p. 20) writes about Errol Morris’s documentaries that these films are about ‘how the past is difficult, but perhaps not impossible to know’, and that their use of re-enactment and heightened stylisation presses ‘this epistemological concern’, suggesting that these re-enactments express the difficulty of constructing stable narratives when dealing with knowledge and memory. In her discussion of The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris’s 1988 documentary about a man falsely convicted of killing a police officer, Linda Williams (1993, p.  12) describes the self-reflexive qualities of re-enactment, stating that the documentary: is acutely aware that the individuals whose lives are caught up in events are not so much self-coherent and consistent identities as they are actors in competing narratives.

For Williams, the expressionistic and temporal qualities of re-­enactment, and its capacity to represent different versions of the same events, demonstrate the instability of the narratives that it dramatises. These statements can be easily applied to a film like Casting JonBenet, where the inaccessibility of the past is heightened by trauma, which renders memory even more a fractured, unreliable thing than it always is already. But Casting JonBenet goes further than The Thin Blue Line, or indeed other recent true crime documentaries, in its cultivation of narrative instability through re-­ enactments, for it appears to posit these narratives as not necessarily competing for truth status, but as existing temporally and geographically in concert with each other, alongside each other. Unlike in The Thin Blue Line, in Casting JonBenet, the knowability of the past is less important than how the past is remembered. What is re-enacted is not, like in The Keepers, the traumatic memory of one person through the body of another—instead, what is made visible in both content and form is both the public memory of the murder case, and its intersections with private traumatic memories. These memories are bound together by the city of Boulder as a figure of place memory—but unlike The Keepers’ construction of memory as embodied and placed, Casting JonBenet creates a sense of disembodied displacement. Casting JonBenet’s multiplicity of performance precludes narrative closure, the many fragmentary narratives of the JonBenét case layered on top of personal testimonies, acted out on a soundstage, bodies standing in for bodies in places standing in for places. Bruzzi (2006, pp. 153–54) writes that in some documentaries ‘repeated use is made of performance, not as a



means of invalidating the documentary pursuit but of getting to the truth each filmmaker is searching for’ and in Casting JonBenet, these multiple performances seem to perhaps illuminate some unknown aspect of the Ramsey’s story, but equally conceal it. The documentary screens public memories of the original traumatic event in order to extend outwards—to explore the nature of traumatic memory itself.

Conclusion I began this chapter with a reference to Trigg’s (2012) conception of phenomenological place, where the past emerges at trauma sites through a language of voids, disruptions, and hauntings. A similar language also applies to cinematic representation of trauma, as Walker reminds us with her work on trauma cinema: a language of fragmentation, abstraction, and appeals to sensation. These kinds of fragmentary hauntings, as I have explored, appear throughout both The Keepers and Casting JonBenet, expressed differently by each documentary. The Keepers brings traumatic place memory to the screen through close-ups and lingering shots of places and bodies, and through expressive re-enactments of memory. Casting JonBenet similarly uses interviews and re-enactments to screen traumatic memory, but instead of the communal traumas of The Keepers, these are memories of several different traumas as experienced by a community, personal and collective, epitomised by JonBenét Ramsey’s murder and materialised in the multiplicity of testimony and performance. In both true crime documentaries, contemporary footage allows glimpses of the traumatic past in the material present, and re-enactments make fragmentary memory visible and material. Additionally, in both documentaries the construction of memory as placed or displaced is highly central to their representations of traumatic memory. Not all true crime documentaries have such extensive interviews with victims, revisit trauma sites, or use re-­ enactment to screen memories or potentialities, and thus this chapter does not account for all texts in this genre; indeed, many do not significantly explore trauma, instead focusing on constructing arguments for the innocence of the convicted or the injustice of the criminal justice system. This chapter does, however, suggest true crime’s capacity to meaningfully represent trauma through the felt, experiential memory of place, and in doing so, materialise traumatic memory on screen.



References Bell, MM 1997, ‘The ghosts of place’, Theory and Society, vol. 26, no. 6, pp. 813–36. Berry, M & Sawada, C (eds.) 2016, Divided lenses: Screen memories of war in East Asia, University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu. Biressi, A 2004, ‘Inside/out: Private trauma and public knowledge in true crime documentary’, Screen, vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 401–12. Bruzzi, S 2006, New documentary: A critical introduction, 2nd edn, Routledge, Oxford. Bruzzi, S 2016, ‘Making a genre: The case of the contemporary true crime documentary’, Law and Humanities, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 249–80. Caruth, C 1996, Unclaimed experience: Trauma, narrative, and history, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. De Lestrade, J 2004, The staircase, streaming video, Canal+ and Netflix. Francis, M & Hussein, L 2017, ‘Off the record: Reenactment and intimacy in Casting JonBenet’, Film Quarterly, vol. 71, no. 1, pp. 32–41. Freeman, L, Nienass, B & Melamed, L (eds.) 2013, ‘Screen memory’, International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 1–7. Goodall, J & Lee, C (eds.) 2015, Trauma and public memory, Palgrave Macmillan, London. Green, K 2017, Casting JonBenet, streaming video, Netflix. Horeck, T 2007, ‘From documentary to drama: Capturing Aileen Wuornos’, Screen, vol. 48, no. 2, pp. 141–59. Jarecki, A 2015, The jinx: The life and deaths of Robert Durst, DVD, HBO. Jelača, D 2016, Dislocated screen memory: Narrating trauma in post-Yugoslav cinema, Palgrave Macmillan, New York. Kuhn, A 2002, Family secrets: Acts of memory and imagination, Verso, London. Marks, LU 2000, The skin of the film: Intercultural cinema, embodiment and the senses, Duke University Press, Durham. Murley, J 2008, The rise of true crime: Twentieth century murder and American popular culture, Praeger. Nichols, B 1994, Blurred boundaries: Questions of meaning in contemporary culture, Indiana University Press, Bloomington. Nichols, B 2008, ‘Documentary reenactment and the fantasmatic subject’, Critical Inquiry, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 72–89. Ricciardi, L & Demos, M 2015, Making a murderer, streaming video, Netflix. Rothberg, M 2009, Multidirectional memory: Remembering the Holocaust in the age of decolonization, Stanford University Press, Stanford. Seltzer, M 2007, True crime: Observations on violence and modernity, Routledge, New York.



Trigg, D 2012, Memory of place: A phenomenology of the uncanny, Ohio University Press, Athens. Violi, P 2012, ‘Trauma site museums and politics of memory: Tuol Sleng, Villa Grimaldi and the Bologna Ustica Museum’, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 36–75. Walker, J 2005, Trauma cinema: Documenting incest and the Holocaust, University of California Press, Berkeley. White, R 2017, The Keepers, Streaming video, Netflix. Williams, L 1993, ‘Mirrors without memories: Truth, history and the new documentary’, Film Quarterly, vol. 46, no. 3, pp. 9–21.


Chile 1988: Trauma and Resistance in Pablo Larraín’s No (2012) Marguerite La Caze

The Chilean film No (2012) portrays a response to trauma oriented to ending the Pinochet civic-military dictatorship (1973–1990) through using the concept of happiness as a form of resistance.1 The film’s narrative concerns the 1988 plebiscite on whether Pinochet should stay as the president for eight more years—the ‘Yes’ or ‘Sí’ vote—or hold democratic elections—the ‘No’ vote. I focus on how the film represents the transformation of that experience of the trauma of the Pinochet dictatorship into the idea of happiness. No is a fictionalised account of the television campaigns for the 1988 plebiscite that plays with the historical drama genre by incorporating large portions of archival footage—around thirty per cent of the film’s two-hour running time and by using film and cameras that would have been used at the time (Lyttelton 2013). According to the film, the initial idea of the ‘No’ campaign was to condemn the abuses of the dictatorship by showing images of torture and brutality and the resulting trauma and negative emotions. However, as the film shows, this approach

M. La Caze (*) The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




was altered and combined with more positive material because of a determination to win the campaign. Instead of repeating the trauma in a gesture acknowledged as futile, the supporters of the ‘No’ vote in the film take up the challenge to ‘retemporalise and detranslate’ the trauma, to create the possibility of a new narrative that Kristin McCartney finds in W.E.B. Du Bois’ (1868–1963) articulation of the importance of slave or sorrow songs; this possibility of a new narrative is one that must be recognised, taken up, and recounted to be effective (2009, pp.  85–86). No depicts how a new narrative is created in the context of the Chilean plebiscite. In the film, the ‘No’ campaign, headed by René Saavedra, a creative director in advertising, deploys Aristotle’s idea that happiness is an intrinsic value—through the chorus of a catchy theme song, ‘Chile, joy is coming’ [Chile, la alegria ya viene]—and thus the best concept to galvanise a traumatised nation in favour of change. As I explain, while the campaigners were not directly inspired by Aristotle, the focus on joy [alegría] was used in the ‘No’ campaign as the first step to happiness [felicidad] on the understanding that happiness is an intrinsic value. The resistant ‘No’ campaign shown in No portrays a possible future happiness if the regime were to end through the portrayal of joyful happiness. The narrative of No follows René from his initial reluctance to direct the ‘No’ television campaign to his enthusiastic and determined pursuit of its success and ends with his ambivalent return to his advertising agency to work with his boss, Lucho Guzmán, who directed the ‘Yes’ campaign. While the film has been criticised for oversimplifying events and omitting the grassroots campaign to register and mobilise voters (Rohter 2013; Khazan 2013; Peirano 2018), my interest is in the narrative of the film’s representation of the shift of attention from painful trauma to happiness as a form of resistance. Rather than seeing the film as a flawed how-to manual for ending dictatorships, my chapter explores the importance of the symbolic transformation in the film of emotion from a negative past orientation to a positive future one, and from individual suffering to collective happiness in the specific context of the Chilean 1988 plebiscite. No uses original footage from the period and filmic techniques with old film stock in the Academy ratio and cameras that often blur the new footage with the old, so the film feels like a memory of that time and place. The director also used individuals who were involved in the campaign as actors in order to provide another link with the period. In another meaning of place, the film’s focus on the television campaign refers us to television as a locus for resistance to



trauma here, by showing how television was able to influence and change public opinion and responses to past trauma through its use of a positive narrative. I first centre on how Du Bois’ work provides an understanding of the way traumatic experience can be transformed into a more hopeful orientation, an understanding relevant to the 1988 Chilean referendum represented in No, then on how the concept of happiness is presented as essential to resistance in the film, and finally I show through the character of René, the advertising man behind the campaign, the connection between individual and collective transformation toward happiness and the future.

Retemporalising Trauma First, I will focus on the idea of how trauma can be retemporalised and detranslated, terms McCartney takes from Cathy Caruth (1996) and Jean Laplanche (1973, pp.  465–73), by linking the past with the future and developing a resistant culture. For McCartney, detranslation of what is ‘untranslatable’ in trauma begins ‘the unending hermeneutic process of temporalizing [sic] and narrating the self’ (2009, p.  81). I focus on McCartney’s interpretation of Du Bois’ work as a precedent for comprehending the narrative of hope recounted in No. McCartney shows how Du Bois articulates forms of identification resistant to the dominant white symbolic. She argues that Du Bois is able to retemporalise trauma ‘through the unburial of racial history and race ideals’ (2009, p. 79), in his account of the sorrow songs. The problem of trauma is one of kinship bonds being broken, and sorrow songs can be a force for resistance and connection of the generations. The sorrow songs are the songs of slaves in southern United States, popularised by the Fisk Jubilee singers from Nashville from 1871, beginning a tradition that continues today. The best known of these is ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ and Du Bois claims that ‘they tell us in these eager days that life was joyous to the black slave, careless and happy’ (McCartney 2009, p. 189). While many of the songs speak of trouble and toil, he holds that ‘Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope—a faith in the ultimate justice of things’ (2009, p. 196). McCartney follows Caruth and Laplanche in thinking of retemporalisation and detranslation as a ‘struggle to make sense of the remainder of the enigmatic’ or the fragments of past experience of trauma, such as the sorrow songs (2009, p. 81).



In The Souls of Black Folk (1903/1996), Du Bois broadens analysis of individual trauma to theorise the oppression of African-Americans and resistance to it. For him, black Americans have a double consciousness, or a ‘sense of always looking at oneself through the eyes of others’, which engenders a longing to combine this ‘double self into a better and truer self’ and ‘to be a co-worker in the kingdom of culture’ (Du Bois 1996, p. 7). On McCartney’s reading of Du Bois, double consciousness involves the disturbance of the capacity to narrate one’s own experiences (McCartney 2009, p. 80). Part of the history of dispossession and oppression that creates that double consciousness is the temporal disruption of intergenerational order (Du Bois 1996, pp.  8–9, 151). Thus, resistance has to take the form of re-establishing the broken ties to form an identity through continuity over time and generations, and community between black and white Americans. While Du Bois describes a different situation from the Chilean dictatorship, as I will discuss, the torture, disappearances, and murder mark breaks in temporal continuity and in community solidarity, and the film No dramatises a specific detranslation of those breaks. The detranslation McCartney focusses on is re-narration of intergenerational trauma. The enigmatic refers to a fragmented narrative of original loss and is here, for McCartney, the sorrow songs, which are partial links to a lost past that become ‘vehicles for identification and catharsis [whereby] Du Bois imagines a counter-force of intergenerational strength and Black cultural resistance’ (2009, p. 80). Du Bois contends that the songs are ‘the most beautiful expression of human experience’ in America (1996, p. 188). The sorrow songs express trauma and loss and also provide a connection to history, which Du Bois ‘tries to translate into a message of hope’ (McCartney 2009, p. 85). Fundamentally, he contends that the songs must be recognised as a heritage of the whole nation. Similarly, Paul E.  Kirkland argues that ‘Du Bois concludes Souls by showing the way that the “Sorrow Songs” exhibit a capacity for joy when suffering is transfigured as art and self-knowledge when aesthetic experience helps to reveal the character of human longing’ (2015, p. 415). This suffering transfigured into joy is contrasted with blind optimism, despair and resignation, and grounded in an experience of the tragedy, disappointment, and suffering of African-American history (Kirkland 2015, pp. 432–36). McCartney’s and Kirkland’s focus on Du Bois’ transformation of trauma into hope and connection is one that is followed in different forms by other trauma theorists, and I will return to this point, as



theorising that transformation is essential to interpreting the representation of the ‘No’ campaign in No. How individual and collective trauma are related should be clarified here. Trauma theory developed in the twentieth-century from Sigmund Freud’s work on individual trauma and also following the two World Wars. Much research on trauma concerns how people respond to traumatic occurrences, especially how it affects memory; for example, Susan Rubin Suleiman shows how Judith Herman and others connect trauma with repressed memory of repeated traumatic events (2008, p.  277). These events involve a life-threatening force that makes the person feel helpless (Herman 1992, p.  33; Brison 2003, p.  39). Others, such as Elizabeth Loftus and Richard McNally, argue that ‘memories of trauma … cannot be dissociated or repressed—on the contrary, the more violent the trauma, the more subjects are likely to remember it, indeed to never forget it even if they want to’ (Suleiman 2008, p. 279). Suleiman concludes that trauma is ‘primarily a drama of survival’ with themes stressed by Robert Jay Lifton such as ‘the inability to move beyond images of death, guilt about having survived while others died, psychic numbing, lack of trust in the world, and struggle for meaning’ (Suleiman 2008, p. 280). Trauma can mean a response to personal trauma or to the trauma of political events. I examine trauma as a response to the atrocities committed by the military in Chile, but in the specific situation depicted in No, where the dictatorship is still in power and the trauma is ongoing. The Pinochet regime in Chile committed atrocities in murdering or ‘disappearing’ thousands of people (at least 2000), torturing many thousands more (27,000), and sending many more (200,000) into exile.2 Such experiences create trauma and affect the emotions and self-identity of victims and survivors and reverberate throughout society. Philosopher Jeffrey Blustein describes how the suffering of atrocity ‘is registered in the emotions, memories, and psychological deficits of victims’ (2018, p. 234). He follows Herman in seeing the typical response of victims of atrocity as traumatisation. Nevertheless, the emotions that are experienced are diverse, ranging from anger and desires for revenge, fantasies of forgiveness, to ‘detached calm’ (Blustein 2018, p. 236). Other emotions felt are ‘fear, alienation, distrust, hopelessness, guilt, and shame’ and grief (2018, p. 240, 242). Nevertheless, Blustein observes that an emotion like anger as a traumatised response to atrocity is different from everyday anger, in being helpless, uncontrollable, and



it lacks a definite target and a corrective aim. Moreover, instead of asserting autonomy and empowering the agent, traumatic anger of this sort subverts the victim’s autonomy because it lashes out at the wrongdoer in a usually futile attempt by the victim to regain some measure of control over his or her life (2018, p. 236).

For these reasons, Blustein argues that such futile anger must be transformed to be experienced as righteous anger or moral indignation. Presumably, this transformation would involve finding an appropriate target and aim, being controlled, and having a point. After atrocities, Blustein’s main example being genocide, people need to recover agency, especially moral agency. The atrocities in Chile under the Pinochet regime can be understood as a political genocide, a policide or politicide (Harff 2003). Steve J. Stern, a historian specialising in memory and the Pinochet regime, argues that the political project of Pinochet’s government was ‘policide, an effort to destroy root and branch—permanently—the ways of doing and thinking politics that had come to characterise Chile by the 1960s’ (2004, pp. 31–32). One of the greatest moral harms to victims of atrocities, Blustein contends, is to their self-respect, self-esteem, and other related capacities, as victims of atrocities feel degraded (2018, pp. 238, 249–50). Furthermore, personal autonomy, or capacities to self-define and self-legislate, which relies on moral autonomy on Blustein’s account, are undermined by the inability to trust others or oneself. He adds that a genocide (such as politicide) harms self-respect in specific ways because it attacks the group and individual and aspects of the self tied to the practices of the group (2018, p. 250).3 In the Chilean dictatorship and the acts of murder, torture, and disappearances, political ideals and values associated with communism and socialism were under attack. Blustein observes that the traumatic experience of being under attack collectively can create a feeling of community as well as divide that community. To recover from the trauma, in Blustein’s view, victims must be able to ‘mourn their loses, including loss of livelihoods, friends and loved ones, homes, and prestige, and also, fundamentally, a sense of security in the world and trust in themselves and others’ (2018, p. 239). In her account of her own recovery from sexual assault, philosopher Susan Brison distinguishes between traumatic and narrative memory, the latter being a transformation of traumatic memories (Brison 2003, p.  31; Blustein 2018, p.  240). Traumatic memories are fragmented and not integrated with



other memories, whereas narrative memories are coherent in themselves and in relation to other memories, according to Blustein (2018, p. 255). However, Brison also isolates similarities between the two kinds of memory, writing ‘Traumatic memory, like narrative memory, is articulated, selective, even malleable, in spite of the fact that the framing of such memory may not be under the survivor’s conscious control’ (2003, p. 31). She argues that our traumatic experiences are always influenced by cultural meanings and categories. The transformation of memory is a process that must be effected to recover from trauma, which Blustein sees as recovering cognitive and emotional equilibrium (Blustein 2018, pp.  253–54). For Brison, telling our narrative ‘to caring others who are able to listen’ enables that transformation (2003, p.  57). Another process required is overcoming the feeling of ‘acute helplessness’ and loss of personal autonomy (Ashwin Budden, cited in Blustein 2018, pp. 243–44). Importantly, Blustein also examines collective processes of recovery from trauma. He accepts that communities may dwell on and obsess over the past in ways that undermine agency, so tempering that approach and adopting an appropriate mourning will be necessary (2018, p. 257). On a collective level, that can be done through memorialisation and commemoration.4 Both individual and collective processes are aimed at developing effective agency. Now I will examine how the film No shows how a focus on positive affect can construct effective agency and resistance, instead of a traumatic focus on remembering suffering.

No and Happiness As I mentioned, No has been criticised for depicting the ‘No’ television campaign unrealistically, and not presenting the preceding years of activism (Khazan 2013; Rohter 2013; Peirano 2018). However, I concentrate on the philosophical ideas that drive the campaign as depicted in the movie. Director Pablo Larraín describes the film as a ‘strange balance between documentary and fiction’ and Gael García Bernal, who plays the protagonist René Saavedra, calls it a ‘fable’ (Rohter 2013) and suggests it provides ‘a thorough political analysis of the subject’ (Lyttelton 2013). It forms a kind of trilogy with Larraín’s earlier films Tony Manero (2008), and Post Mortem (2010), which portray life under Pinochet and the military coup itself respectively, and contrasts strongly with more recent works such as Jackie and Neruda, both released in 2016.5



Latin American studies scholar Robert Wells analyses the trilogy along with Larraín’s first feature film, Fuga (2006), as post-traumatic cinema, focusing on the ‘visualisation of trauma, male fantasies, and cultural capital’ (2017, p. 504).6 He allows that the films both act out and contribute to a working through of trauma, partly through implicating the viewers in the trauma (Wells 2017, pp.  516–17). Joshua Hirsch defines ‘posttraumatic cinema’ as ‘a cinema that not only represents traumatic historical events, but also attempts to embody and reproduce trauma for the spectator through its form of narration’ (2004, p. xi). Thus, post-traumatic films ‘formally repeat the traumatic structure of the experience of witnessing the events themselves’ (2004, pp. 3, 19). For Hirsch, Holocaust films and documentaries such as Night and Fog (1955), Shoah (1985), and Schindler’s List (1993), play the role of getting the audience to admit the existential significance of the Holocaust and possibly even to assist in healing the trauma (2004, p. 162). No occupies an unusual position in narrating a period of transition. Larraín originally made a much longer film—four and a half hours—which had much of the history of resistance in it, but cut it down to focus on the marketing side, which interested him (Rohter 2013).7 As films tend to, a complex history is compressed into a short scene or single character. For example, instead of showing some of the focus groups that led to the positive approach of the ‘No’ campaign, the creatives ask René’s housekeeper, Carmen (Elsa Poblete), what she thinks since she represents the people they must convince. She is concerned about preserving her children’s employment aspirations and is afraid of change, so is likely to be a ‘Yes’ voter. The film concentrates on the month of the political advertising campaign for the plebiscite that follows growing resistance against, and international pressure on, the dictatorship. It follows closely the way that the ‘No’ and the ‘Yes’ campaign had only 15 minutes of screen time each daily to persuade people to vote their way in the referendum, although of course the government-sponsored ‘Yes’ campaign had the rest of the airtime as well, due to its control of television content (Hirmas 1993; Simón 2018, pp.  42–48). The programmes, Franja de Propaganda Electoral (Official Space for Electoral Propaganda), were shown late on weeknights (10:45 pm) and at lunchtime (11:45 am) on the weekends. What happens, as we see in the film, is that instead of repeating the trauma in images, as is initially proposed, the creatives turn away from them. René insists that the campaign and programmes must focus on



positive experiences and on what life would be like without the dictatorship. This change, as argued for by René, is a pragmatic break in the remembrance of atrocities to make way for a future where they can be remembered properly. The Chilean referendum was complicated, as there was no distance in time from the traumatic events, so it is understandable that people would want to register their suffering. Like the breaks in continuity of life for African-Americans through early death, separation of families, and lack of support for well-being into the future Du Bois describes, the disappearances and murders in Chile broke kinship bonds that must be reconnected. While Du Bois is concerned with a holistic progress of African-Americans in ‘work, culture, liberty’ (1996, p. 12), the thread of a cultural narrative of hope is important to understand the events depicted in No. A new narrative must be created to overcome trauma and transform affect from fear and powerlessness to joy and to centre on the future rather than the past, and that narrative must be one that can influence more than half of the population. The idea is that people might not necessarily feel happiness, but they should focus on a happy future through images of joyful experiences, like dancing, picnics, and a mime artist. These experiences might not be culturally authentic, as critics in the film observe, but they are like fragments of a possible future happy life. To understand the context of the referendum shown in No, by 1988, Pinochet had been in power since 1973, Chile had not had an election since Salvador Allende’s 1970 election, and the opposition campaign had to register people to vote and convince them to vote ‘No’. The background is given in a series of titles at the start of the film. Once voters had registered, it was compulsory to vote; these aspects are not detailed in the film, as it centres on the television programmes.8 While No can be seen as promoting the values of the advertising industry or as criticising modern society, I argue the film shows how the campaign is successful through concentrating on the philosophical concept of happiness. When the advertising creatives brainstorm ideas for the campaign at a retreat, they arrive at the concept of happiness by thinking of what could not be bettered, asking ‘What’s happier than happiness?’ The slogan and catchy jingle used in the campaign after that discussion is ‘Chile, joy is coming’, as I mentioned. The concept involves joy, delight, spring, calm after the storm, a party—anything associated with happiness. For example, René leaves baguettes in a picnic scene the campaign is filming despite protests that baguettes are not typically Chilean, claiming that using the baguettes ‘works’. His idea of happiness is as a universal political concept that cannot



be argued against, and he presents it in advertising language. The ‘No’ programmes also discuss abuse and misery, but they do not make them the focus of the 15  minutes. They also include interviews with ‘No’ voters and, following interviews with focus groups about the campaign, comedy sketches, as we see. Wells sees the spectacle of the film, with its blending of original and new footage, as making it impossible to conceive resistance (2017, p. 513), but I argue that the discourse of happiness is a discourse of resistance in this case. I will briefly examine Aristotle’s conception of happiness to show its distinctiveness. Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, contends that something worth pursuing in itself is more complete and unqualified than what we pursue for the sake of something else. He concludes: Now such a thing is happiness … for this we choose always for itself and never for the sake of something else, but honour, pleasure, reason, and every excellence we choose indeed for themselves (for if nothing resulted from them we would still choose each of them), but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, judging that through them we will be happy. Happiness, on the other hand, no one chooses for the sake of these, nor, in general for anything other than itself. (1984, 1097a36–1097b7)

Aristotle also considers that happiness is self-sufficient, and so is the end of action. The campaigners’ brainstorming session follows a similar train of thought, although it is not directly based on Aristotle’s ideas. In the ‘No’ campaign, happiness is a form of active resistance to the negative emotions of fear and anxiety, and the pressure to support the status quo.9 The happiness of the shows, as recounted in the film, must connect to a future of happiness, without referring to an earlier time before the dictatorship, as that could remind people of a period of uncertainty or hardship. Of course, Aristotle is not thinking of the emotion of happiness as such, but flourishing, the well-lived life—eudaimonia—‘as a sort of living and faring well’ (1984, 1098b22–23). However, the ‘No’ campaign must appeal to experiences of joy (alegría), like a picnic in the countryside, dancing, or horse-­ riding, to evoke that kind of flourishing, all images shown in the film.10 The positive programmes could be seen as a repression of the traumatic memories, in their turn from a real past to the desire for an imagined future, but that interpretation is not borne out because there is reference to that past.



In contrast, the film has a number of scenes characterising how the ‘Yes’ campaign struggles with Pinochet’s image; should he be in uniform or civilian clothes? Eventually they decide on civilian clothes as a sign of democracy and progress, what is shown to be a mistake as, for the first time, people see him as able to be defeated (International Commission of the Latin American Studies Association 1989, p.  6). They begin with a combination of stressing economic success (‘Chile—a winning country’) and a scare campaign against the ‘No’ and end up parodying the ‘No’ programmes with scenes such as horse riders carrying Soviet flags and dancers wearing balaclavas.11 The ‘Yes’ campaign also focused strongly on the past: instead of arguing that it would be good to extend Pinochet’s government, they warned that economic gains would be lost and chaos would ensue with a return to the ‘Popular Unity’ coalition. In that way, they associated ‘Yes’ with the traumatic images René rejects for the ‘No’ campaign. The optimistic note of the ‘No’ programmes’ shots of happy groups can also be seen as creating a narrative whereby the past can be connected to the future, and the individual linked to their community, so in that respect they involve the remaking of the self that Brison (2003) recommends.

No and the Transformation of the Self In my view, we should also understand the complexity of the protagonist René and how he becomes drawn into the campaign to comprehend the link between trauma and resistance in No. I argue that the narrative should be interpreted as a transformative one where René’s character and actions both prompt and track the significant elements of happiness as a form of resistance. In contrast, reviews of the film have referred to René as a sell-­ out (Felperin 2012), apolitical (Toledo 2013; Howe 2015), cynical, and lacking in scruple (Matheou 2013), neoliberal (Qandt 2016), as having ‘political apathy’ (Dzero 2015, p. 123), ‘self-regarding’ (Dargis 2013), as being indifferent to democratic ideals (Dzero 2015, p. 130), and so on. Wells claims that the approach of the campaign ‘is not meant to be celebrated, however, but rather exposed as another male fantasy that taps into and dominates the collective fantasies of others’ (2017, p. 514). He further argues that ‘No visualises how traumas were made invisible, and how this was done in order to “win” and thereby construct a pacifying, neutralising, amnesiac “consensus” for the future’ (2017, p. 515). Other critics decry the focus on a ‘single heroic individual’ as simplifying and distorting



the campaign (cited in Jung 2015, p. 119).12 Irina Dzero, a Latin American cultural studies scholar, for example, thinks of René as passive and unconcerned with democracy, noting that he does not try to defend himself when one of the opposition coalition members accuses him of silencing what really happened (2015, p.  124). Likewise, she sees him as equally enthused about all his projects, as I discuss. But could René’s seeming apoliticism as acted by Bernal be itself a feature of traumatisation, like the ‘detached calm’ Blustein (2018, p. 236) describes as a consequence of subjection to atrocities? In fact, as the audience is made aware of, René is no stranger to trauma, since his father was sent into exile when Pinochet took over Chile. Nevertheless, his character is an outsider precisely because of that exile, and his advertising profession is seen as collusive with the regime by the other characters, and that may help explain his willingness to focus on a positive message rather than on showing representations of the trauma. Unlike the protagonists of Tony Manero (2008) and Post Mortem (2010), he is extremely good at his occupation. René is approached by socialist leader José Tomás Urrutia (Luis Gnecco) for the campaign, and is initially sceptical, like many Chileans were, arguing that the referendum will be ‘completely fixed’. They want René to give an external opinion, since he does not want to direct the campaign, but he begins to get involved and then agrees to run it. René conflicts with his boss, Lucho Guzmán (Alfredo Castro), when he tells him that the Americans are with the ‘No’, while Lucho claims the Americans will remain with Pinochet and works for the ‘Yes’ campaign. One aspect of trauma can be a reduced affect, first as a self-protection from a violent regime, and second as a self-protection from exposure to emotional pain. Blunted affect or emotional numbing and lack of expression of emotion, especially positive emotions, is known as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (Herman 1992, p. 42; Kashdan et al. 2007). This aspect of trauma is subtly represented in the film through Bernal’s performance. In his review of the film, Omer M. Mozaffar observes that René ‘speaks in whispers. He rarely smiles’ (2013). He clearly wants to get back with his former partner Verónica (Antonia Zegers), but when he sees her with another man, he says and does nothing. Only if we notice his eyes, can we see, thanks to Bernal’s superb acting, how much suffering he is enduring. Demetrios Matheou acknowledges that René may have ‘chosen apathy as an escape from a painful past’ but suggests that his character is ambiguous and his motivations not clear—perhaps he just loved the challenge of the campaign (2013, p. 101; Dargis 2013). Larraín himself



claims that René ‘is in a deep existential conflict, in doubt about his job and his partner’ (Larraín, with Palacios 2012b).13 There is meant to be a mystery about his motivations that leads to reflection on the questions that arise, so I examine that issue in more detail. Images of trauma are initially filmed for the ‘No’ campaign and that is what René rejects. The leftist strategists argue that they want to open up people’s eyes, raise awareness. He says, ‘Do you want to win?’ and ‘Do you think you can win?’ and they respond ‘No’ to the second question, but they think it is important to show the traumatic images. Their memory of that trauma is clear and detailed, and quickly shown through some images of tanks, soldiers with guns, and statistics about torture, exile, executions, and the disappeared. However, the affect behind those ads could be seen as the pointless rage that Blustein (2018) outlines. The socialist coalition members who despise René could have been lost in endless squabbles, as the ‘Yes’ campaign predicts, if he had not taken over the campaign. Their reluctance to take the vote seriously and believe that a ‘No’ result will not be honoured, shown in a crucial scene, links back to a feeling of helplessness as well as lack of trust in the authorities (Blustein 2018, pp. 243, 245). All the members of the opposition felt this way, at least initially, due to the success of the previous referendum on a new constitution in 1980, and the film represents the coming together of all the parties, including socialists and ultimately communists as well. However, the very idea of a ‘No’, like that in the campaign, can be empowering. As part of her recovery from the trauma of being attacked, Brison took part in self-defence classes where the women had to yell ‘No!’, something that was difficult for them to do (2003, p. 14). She connects this ‘no’ with resistance, maintaining that ‘The “no” of resistance is not the “no” of denial. It is the “no” of acknowledgment of what happened and refusal to let it happen again’ (2003, p. 64). Of course, the referendum vote could have been framed the other way, but it was framed as ‘Yes’ for a continuation of the regime, presumably on the assumption that was likely to be the more triumphant approach. Likewise, Maurice Blanchot finds refusal to be a powerful political action. He writes: Those who refuse and who are bound by the force of refusal know that they are not yet together. The time of common affirmation is precisely what has been taken away from them. What they are left with is the irreducible refusal, the friendship of this sure, unshakable, rigorous No that unites them and determines their solidarity (2010, p. 7).



It is the beginning of coming together. Thus, it is at this level of solidarity with ‘No’—a fundamental refusal of the dictatorship and Pinochet—that René does his work. Despite intimidation and an inducement to withdraw (an offer of partnership) from his boss Lucho who is working for the ‘Yes’ campaign, René continues with the campaign. As I noted, Dzero argues that René does not believe in democracy or that his motives are at best unclear (2015, p. 122). She contrasts the film unfavourably to Antonio Skármeta’s play, El Plebiscito, which she argues shows a genuine commitment to democracy, unlike the film. Dzero also argues that working on the campaign had no transformative impact on René, and that his approach to the campaign is interchangeable with his work on an ad for a soft drink called ‘Free’ and a soap opera, Bellas y Audaces (Beautiful and Bold)—a real drink and real soap opera. She contends that René uses the same pitch—‘What you are going to see now is in line with the current social context … Today, Chile thinks about its future’—for a soft drink called ‘Free’ for the no campaign, and for a soap opera, thus showing that he is completely cynical about the campaign (Dzero 2015, p. 127).14 This reading seems simplistic, as René’s character is more complex and motivated in complex ways. The hero’s journey narrative of departure, initiation into an adventure, and return, is closer in its broad outlines to the structure of the film (Vogler 2007). Furthermore, the film shows René to be concerned with the principles at stake, since he discusses the importance of the concept of happiness to the political future. Moreover, we can see that while René uses the same introduction about the social context and the future in Chile, each time it has a different meaning—the introduction to the ‘Free’ cola in Pinochet’s regime is ironic, in the campaign for change it is earnest, and then for the soap opera it is a kind of celebration of success, tempered with some ambivalence, as René is awkward and hesitant in the final presentation. These differences can be understood because the audience sees René change over the course of the film. Early in the campaign, René’s estranged partner, Verónica, says that the ads are ‘a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy’; an obvious, if exaggerated, reference to Plato’s idea of art as a copy of an object that is a copy of its form (Plato 1989, 596e–602c). She cannot see why René would work to validate Pinochet’s referendum, but for him it is there to be won. But later she changes her mind, saying ‘you are hitting the old man hard’, and her new boyfriend is wearing the campaign’s signature rainbow t-shirt. Similarly, René clearly changes as the campaign progresses, in contrast to



Dzero’s claim that ‘Larraín and Peirano [Pedro, scriptwriter] insist that the campaign has no impact on him’ and has ‘no transformative or educational impact on the adman’ (2015, pp. 122, 127). Caetlin Benson-Allott also sees in René a ‘growing disillusionment with his vacuous profession’ (2013, p.  61), a view Fabrizio Cilento repeats (2015). However, while early on René does not intervene to help Verónica when she is beaten at the police station, later we see him being drawn in to help her at the demonstration and he is kicked in the stomach and thrown to the ground.15 Furthermore, he accepts the abuse painted in red on his window [Homeland-peddling Marxist], being followed, and threatened as a result of his work for the campaign.16 René’s transformation is linked to a collective transformation that is expressed in the film’s style. Dzero analyses the film as a simulacrum, where there is no concern about the distinction between the media images and reality, expressed by René’s set up of a group enjoying a picnic, including baguettes, and saying ‘It works’ (2015, pp. 129–30). However, this interpretation seems not to take seriously enough the way the film draws attention to its artifice at certain points, as Larraín casts real figures from the campaign, with their younger versions in the documentary footage, such as Patricio Aylwin, Chilean president after Pinochet, playing an elderly politician (Dzero 2015, p. 129; Larraín, with Palacios 2012b). For Larraín, the actor’s body ‘returns to where it once was. It returns, returns, and that’s the work of memory. It’s beautiful’ (2012a). He sees these roles as doing some of the work of recovery from trauma, and as helping others to avoid making the same mistakes. The presence of the individuals both evokes their place in the past and reminds viewers of how things have changed. Moreover, Larraín immerses the audience in the narrative and reflects the period by filming on old videotape on an Ikegama camera so that the archival film footage used and the new film blend together, and uses the squarer Academy ratio (1.40:1) (Lyttelton 2013). This ratio, in contrast to the narrower ones used for the grimmer films, can signify an opening up of the society through collective resistance. No never loses sight of the distinction between fact and fiction, even if the old footage is not immediately distinguishable by colour and image quality. Scholars and reviewers find the bleeding and blurred colours and images to signify trauma or moral and political ambiguity (Wells 2017, p. 515; Benson-Allott 2013, pp.  62–63).17 Wells considers that these references could be taken as a homage to video resistance in Chile and to Alylwin’s Concertación de



Partidos por la Democracia (Coalition of Parties for Democracy), a coalition of centre-left political parties which governed Chile from 1990 to 2010.18 The coalition is represented by the rainbow symbol that appears throughout the film in the show, posters and t-shirts for the campaign, predating the global use of that flag to represent LGBTIQ struggles. However, Wells concludes that ‘these tributes are oblique, or better said, bleak’ (2017, p. 514). Yet these tributes to collective resistance in the form of original and new video footage and their significance would be obvious to a Chilean audience. It is important to the film (and history) that the campaign was a success, with 54.7% of Chileans voting ‘No’. At the beginning, most people were afraid to vote and afraid of a return to socialism. People were sceptical about whether the vote would be accepted, yet they had to support the vote so that it would be accepted. What is crucial, I think, to the success of the ‘No’ campaign is not just the shifts to positivity and to the future but also the shift from individual suffering to collective defiance, which the ads contribute to as we see in the film. Instead of looking at the trauma and the negative effects as those of an individual, the campaign focuses on the shared capacity for happiness, presented in the shots of groups enjoying the imagined future after ‘no’ wins.19 Nevertheless, the film’s conclusion is ambiguous, since René leaves the celebration for the plebiscite win with his son, and commentators have remarked on his ‘muted response’, taken as a sign of quietism (Wells 2017, p. 515; Benson-Allott 2013, p. 61). I argue that the ending, rather than depicting cynicism about democracy, depicts the ambiguity and ambivalence of political change.20 Any transition from a dictatorship to a democracy is bound to be multifaceted and have both positive and negative aspects, so the events of the transition are unlikely to support a one-sided interpretation. The Chilean transition is variously described as ‘a beautiful, almost mystic moment of national euphoria, a unique time of people collaborating’ (Cronovich 2016, pp. 173–74) or the beginning of the mediatisation of Chilean politics (Simón 2018, pp. 67–71). Mediatisation often refers to the media becoming autonomous from politics and yet dominating it, whereas Harry L. Salazar Simón (2018) contends that politics and media/marketing became fused in the Chilean case. One of the negative aspects of post-Pinochet Chile is the impunity of the Chilean killers, in the main, which Larraín sees as an open wound (Larraín, in Lyttelton 2013). He notes that the ending is ‘the wonderful thing, but there’s a bitter taste at the same time’ because ‘we kept some of the “Yes” in our system, in our



logic’ (Lyttelton 2013; Larraín, with Palacios 2012b). By this he means the economic logic of capitalism and neoliberalism, which includes the use of advertising to influence people’s feelings and behaviour. Seeing René skateboarding through a city street towards the end of the film gives an impression of joy, although Mozaffar suggests it is a scene of loneliness (Mozaffar 2013). In the final scene, he is back at the advertising agency working on the soap opera, an ambivalent presentation on how some things will stay the same even after the switch to democracy. Furthermore, in Chile, democracy did not begin overnight after the plebiscite, as the civic-military rule continued for another eighteen months. In contrast, there are also signs of hope beyond the winning of the plebiscite. Verónica and René are united in their care and concern for their son, Simón (Pascal Montero) and to some extent become united in their desire for the ‘No’ case to win. Unlike the generations of black Americans who suffered under slavery and successive forms of oppression, Chileans in the film are the first generation, although a new generation was starting to grow up under the dictatorship. René’s son in the film is the future, the generation that the promise of happiness is held out to. He is only eight and would have known nothing but the regime, as even a fifteen-year-old would. Will his generation suffer less trauma? The film No frames the relation between the generations differently from the other two films in the trilogy. Tony Manero, set during the civic-military dictatorship, concerns an ageing Raúl, a dancer who kills with impunity under the cover of the murderous regime, and is trying to win a Saturday Night Fever (1977) Tony Manero look-alike context. He stymies the ambitions of the much younger Goyo, also interested in the same contest, by spoiling his Tony Manero suit. Similarly, in Post Mortem, concerning the military takeover, the older Mario, a pathologist’s assistant, is rapidly corrupted by his exposure to the bodies of those murdered in the coup at the hospital where he works. Rejected by his young neighbour Nancy, who he had been obsessed with, he murders her and her boyfriend. But in No, René’s youth and even childlikeness is stressed, as he goes skateboarding, playing with train sets, and looking after and engaging with his son. Wells suggests he is petulant because of these activities (2017, p. 514) and Mozaffar that he is ‘a soft-­ spoken kid’ with ‘an empty life of toys and opulence’ (2013). However, while these presentations could be seen as mocking, in the context of the trilogy, it also implies that in post-dictatorship Chile, youth and the next generations will have a chance.



Conclusion The possibility of transforming trauma by altering its relation to time and by creating a new narrative that links the past and future is affirmed by writers on trauma such as McCartney, Du Bois, Blustein, and Brison. The film No explores this possibility of a retemporalising and detranslating shift to a conception of collective happiness in the future rather than simply focusing on discussions of the atrocities and trauma of the past and present in the 1988 Chilean plebiscite campaign. Larraín’s mix of archival and new footage made on old film and cameras, and the use of individuals from the earlier period playing roles in the film, provide an enactment and embodiment of place and time that enable a connection to be drawn between the past and present. The film’s depiction of the campaign and the scholarly responses to it reflect the debates that continue in Chile concerning the Pinochet regime and the post-dictatorship period. While I have focussed on the positive philosophical elements of No, the film, the memories of the campaign, and subsequent developments are all highly contested in Chile and beyond. In addition, the role of television in the ‘No’ campaign as a site of resistance is itself challenged by those who stress the prior grassroots activism. However, the highlighting of happiness in the film and the campaign is itself a form of resistance to oppression and the perpetrators of atrocities as it shifts our affects away from fear, from desire for material things, and even from comfort bought at the cost of democracy and the suffering of others. No also shows how happiness brings together a variety of different political actors in a refusal of dictatorship, a refusal to let the trauma continue. The transformation of René’s character in the film as he becomes more engrossed in the campaign shows the importance of sharing in collective resistance. While the ‘No’ campaign in the film and its success cannot be imitated, as it depends on the specificity of Chile and the plebiscite, the temporal, affective, and pluralistic approach to resistance is one that can inspire.

Notes 1. No was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year Oscar in 2013, won the Art Cinema Award at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and many other awards. 2. Dzero cites 3000 people killed and more than 80,000 tortured (2015, p.  120). Chile had a commission into human rights abuses resulting in



death or disappearance, which delivered The National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (Rettig) Report in 1991 and the The National Commission on Political Imprisonment and Torture (Valech) Report in 2004. Thakkar gives figures from the Valech Report as 3225 murdered or disappeared and 37,055 tortured (2017b, p. 248), out of approximately 10 million people. 3. Feierstein explains how during the Argentinian military dictatorship (1976–1983) almost any actual or potential criticism or rebellion against the regime was characterised as criminal subversion (2014, pp.  161–66) and such subversion was treated as defining of the group subjected to genocide (2014, p. 29). 4. For example, Chile has a Museum of Memory and Human Rights in Santiago to commemorate the victims of the civic-military regime. See Rojas-Lizana, this volume. 5. See Di Stefano (2018) for a comparison of No and Neruda. 6. See Toledo (2013), Jung (2015) and Thakkar (2017a, b) for analyses of Tony Manero and Post Mortem. 7. Wells acknowledges that ‘Larraín could never tell the entire story’ (2017, p. 514), Cilento also argues that the film ‘catalyses a larger historical discussion’ (2015) and Cronovich defends the value of the film as an ‘introduction to the plebiscite’ (2016, p. 166). See Hirmas for an analysis of the role of television in the campaign as important in reminding viewers of [social, economic, and political] conditions (1993, p. 82). 8. See Ackerman and DuVall (2000, pp. 296–97) for a discussion of opinion polls and the background to the plebiscite. There was a long registration drive from 1980 to ensure that people were enrolled to vote and 92 per cent of the electorate was registered (Khazan 2013). 9. Khazan’s article details how the positive theme had also been based on work with focus groups (2013). Hirmas states that the profile of undecided voters were women and young people (1993, p. 87), as represented in the film. In contrast, Cronovich says they were women, poor people, and rural voters (2016, p. 167). 10. It also pointed to a conciliatory mood in another slogan ‘Without hatred, without fear, and without violence, vote “No”’. 11. Hirmas notes that another slogan was ‘YES.  You decide. We continue moving ahead or we return to the UP’ (1993, p. 85). Unidad Popular, or Popular Unity, is the coalition of left-wing parties that supported Allende. 12. Jung is an exception in acknowledging the importance of happiness as a substantial political concept and the creativity of the campaign (2015, pp. 127–28). 13. Cilento also sees René as going through an ‘anguishing dilemma’ in both his professional and private life (2015).



14. Wells similarly argues that there is no possibility of redemption in Larraín’s films (2017, p. 504). Simón concurs that it is not clear that anything has changed between René and his boss after the campaign (2018, p. 54). 15. Qandt’s and Caldwell’s humourless readings focus on René’s first mentioning the possible damage to his car (Qandt 2016; Caldwell 2013). 16. René also protects a crucial tape by taking it to the censor, while the others leave with empty video boxes. This tape is the one censored. See communication scholar Simón (2018, pp. 110–11), who notes that the only censorship of the campaign occurred on day 8, when the ‘No’ programme included testimony from a judge concerning 50 cases of torture. After a national and international outcry, the Sí campaign self-censored its own programme the following day. 17. James Cisneros observes that Larraín exaggerates the quality of the video by allowing rather than controlling blurring and overexposure (2018, pp. 53–54). 18. Jung notes that ‘Video—U-matic, VHS-C, Hi-8, Super VHS and Betacam—was central for the development of an alternative “imaginary” of Chilean society and, later, as part of the audio-visual battle of the 1980s, as well as the NO campaign’ (2015, p. 120). See Chanan (2013) for an account of the importance of video to resistance in Chile and other Latin American countries and the U-matic Project website for documentaries and other films made on video during the dictatorship. 19. It is also referred to in another slogan, ‘We are more’ (Hirmas 1993, p. 91), which can be seen as a response to the ‘Yes’ campaign’s ‘We are millions’. 20. Applebaum notes these aspects of the film (2013) and Wells recognises that Larraín’s films may help viewers to work through the trauma by helping them to see themselves as implicated subjects, as well as acting it out (2017, pp. 517, 504). See Traverso for a discussion of how Chilean documentaries since the regime have involved representations that work through the traumatic memories rather than acting them out (2011).

References Ackerman, P & DuVall, J 2000, A force more powerful: A century of nonviolent conflict, St Martin’s Press, New York. Applebaum, S 2013, ‘Mad men vs. Augusto Pinochet: Pablo Larraín’s new film No’, Scotsman, 4 February. Aristotle 1984, Nicomachean ethics, in The complete works of Aristotle. Vol. 2, J Barnes (ed.), Bollingen, Princeton. Badham, J 1977, Saturday night fever, DVD, Paramount, USA.



Benson-Allott, C 2013, ‘An illusion appropriate to the conditions: No (Pablo Larraín, 2012)’, Film Quarterly, vol. 66, no. 3, pp. 61–63. Blanchot, M 2010, ‘Refusal’, Political writings, 1953–1993, Paul, Z (trans.), Fordham University Press, New York, p. 7. Blustein, J 2018, ‘Traumatic emotions’, in Brudholm, T & Lang, J (eds.), Emotions and mass atrocity: Philosophical and theoretical explorations, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 234–61. Brison, S 2003, Aftermath: Violence and the remaking of the self, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Caldwell, T 2013, ‘Film Review – No (2012) Cinema Autopsy, viewed 17 August 2020. Caruth, C 1996, Unclaimed experience: Trauma, narrative, and history, John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Chanan, M 2013, ‘Video speech in Latin America’, in Richardson, J, Gorbman, C & Vernallis, C (eds.), The Oxford handbook of new audiovisual aesthetics, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 194–212. Cilento, F 2015, ‘Pablo Larraín’s No and the aesthetics of television’, Seismopolite, 30 April, viewed 17 September 2018, pablo-larrain-no-and-the-aesthetics-of-television. Cisneros, J 2018, ‘Precarious images: Media and historicity in Pablo Larraín’s No’, in Burucúa, C & Sitnisky, C (eds.). The precarious in the cinemas of the Americas, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 41–59. Cronovich, PT 2016, ‘“No” and no: The campaign of 1988 and Pablo Larraín’s film’, Radical History Review, iss. 124, pp. 165–76. Dargis, M 2013, ‘Try freedom: Less filling! Tastes great! No with Gael García Bernal’, The New York Times, 14 February. Di Stefano, E 2018, ‘Forms of freedom in Pablo Larraín’s No and Neruda’, Open Library of Humanities, vol. 4, no. 2, p.  23, articles/10.16995/olh.361/. Du Bois, WEB 1996 [1903]. The souls of Black folk, Penguin, London. Dzero, I 2015, ‘Larrain’s film No and its inspiration, El Plebiscito: Chile’s transition to democracy as a simulacrum’, Confluencia: Revista Hispánica de Cultura y Literatura, vol. 31, no. 1, pp. 120–32. Feierstein, D 2014, Genocide as social practice: Reorganizing society under the Nazis and Argentina’s military junta, Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick. Felperin, L 2012, ‘No’, Variety, vol. 427, no. 3, p. 16. Harff, B 2003, ‘No lessons learned from the Holocaust? Assessing risks of genocide and political mass murder since 1955’, American Political Science Review, vol. 97, no. 1, pp. 57–73. Herman, JL 1992, Trauma and recovery, Basic Books, New York.



Hirmas, ME 1993, ‘The Chilean case: Television in the 1988 plebiscite’, in Skidmore, TE (ed). Television, politics, and the transition to democracy in Latin America, The Woodrow Wilson Center Press, Washington, DC, pp. 82–96. Hirsch, J 2004, Afterimage: Film, trauma, and the Holocaust, Temple University Press, Philadelphia. Howe, A 2015, ‘Yes, no, or maybe? Transitions in Chilean society in Pablo Larraín’s No’, Hispania, vol. 98, no. 3, pp. 421–30. International Commission of the Latin American Studies Association to Observe the Chilean Plebiscite 1989, The Chilean plebiscite: A first step towards redemocratization, Latin American Studies Association, Pittsburgh. Jung, N 2015, ‘History, fiction and the politics of corporeality in Pablo Larraín’s dictatorship trilogy’, in Carlsten, JM & McGarry, F (eds.). Film, history and memory, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 118–33. Kashdan, TB, Elhai, JD & Fruef, C 2007, ‘Anhedonia, emotional numbing, and symptom overreporting in male veterans with PTSD’, Personality and Individual Differences, vol. 43, no. 4, pp. 725–35. Khazan, O 2013, ‘4 things the movie No left out about real-life Chile’, The Atlantic, 29 March. Kirkland, PE 2015, ‘Sorrow songs and self-knowledge: The politics of recognition and tragedy in W.E.B.  Du Bois’s Souls of Black Folk’, American Political Thought: A Journal of Ideas, Institutions, and Culture, vol. 4, no. 3, pp. 412–37. Lanzman, C 1985, Shoah, DVD, Films Aleph and Historia Film, France. Laplanche, J 1973, The language of psychoanalysis, Nicholson-Smith, D (trans.), Norton, New York. Larraín, P 2006, Fuga, DVD, La Fábula, Argentina/Chile. Larraín, P 2008, Tony Manero, DVD, La Fábula/Prodigital, Chile/Brazil. Larraín, P 2010, Post mortem, DVD, La Fábula, Chile. Larraín, P 2012a, No, DVD, La Fábula, Chile. Larraín, P 2012b, ‘The problems of fiction’, Interview with José Miguel Palacios. The Brooklyn Rail: Critical Perspectives on Arts, Politics, and Culture, 6 November, viewed 17 September 2018, film/the-problems-of-fictionpablo-larran-with-jos-miguel-palacios. Larraín, P 2013, ‘Interview with Krystina Nellis’, viewed 17 September 2018, tfolio/journalism/pablo-larraininterview-no/. Larraín, P 2016a, Jackie, DVD, Fox Searchlight, USA. Larraín, P 2016b, Neruda, DVD, Sony Pictures, USA. Lyttelton, O 2013, ‘Interview: Director Pablo Larraín on the unique aesthetic of No and working with star Gael García Bernal’, Indiewire, 12 February, viewed 5 March 2019,



Matheou, D 2013, ‘Film of the week: No—Chile’s dictatorship, with Gael García Bernal’s ad man as pied piper’, Sight & Sound, March, pp. 101–102. McCartney, K 2009, ‘W.E.B. Du Bois and the sorrow songs: Unburying resistance in the roots of trauma’, Radical Philosophy Review, vol. 12, nos. 1–2, pp. 79–86. Mozaffar, OM 2013, ‘Review of No’, Rogerebert, viewed 17 September 2018, Peirano, MP 2018, ‘Larraín’s No: A tale of neoliberalism’, in Sandberg, C & Rocha, C (eds.), Contemporary Latin American cinema: Resisting neoliberalism, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 135–52. Plato 1989, The collected dialogues of Plato, Hamilton, E & Cairns, H (eds.), Princeton University Press, Princeton. Qandt, J 2016, ‘Post mortem: Pablo Larraín’s Chile trilogy: A look back at Larraín’s trio of films about the Pinochet regime’, Toronto International Film Festival, 13 December. Resnais, A 1956, Night and fog, DVD, Argos Films, France. Rohter, L 2013, ‘One prism on the undoing of Pinochet: Oscar-nominated No stirring debate in Chile’, The New York Times, 8 February. Simón, HLS 2018, Television, democracy and the mediatization of Chilean politics, Lexington, Lanham. Skármeta, A n.d., El Plebiscito (Unpublished). Spielberg, S 1993, Schindler’s list, DVD, Universal Pictures, USA. Stern, SJ 2004, Remembering Pinochet’s Chile, Duke University Press, Durham. Suleiman, SR 2008, ‘Judith Herman and contemporary trauma theory’, Women’s Studies Quarterly, vol. 36, nos. 1 & 2, pp. 276–81. Thakkar, A 2017a, ‘The perpetrating victim: An allegorical reading of Pablo Larraín’s Tony Manero (2008)’, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 523–37. Thakkar, A 2017b, ‘Unclaimed experience and the implicated subject in Pablo Larraín’s Post Mortem’, in Hodgin, N & Thakkar, A (eds.), Scars and wounds: Film and legacies of trauma, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 243–66. Toledo, VB 2013, ‘Reviewing the present in Pablo Larraín’s historical films’, Iberoamericana, vol. 13, no. 51, pp. 159–72. Traverso, A 2011, ‘Dictatorship memories: Working through trauma in Chilean post-dictatorship documentary’, in Broderick, M & Traverso, A (eds.), Interrogating trauma: Collective suffering in global arts and media, Routledge, London, pp. 179–91. Vogler, C 2007, The writer’s journey: Mythic structure for writers, 3rd ed., Michael Wiese Productions, Studio City. Wells, R 2017, ‘Trauma, male fantasies, and cultural capital in the films of Pablo Larraín’, Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 503–22.


A Abject, 188, 190, 254 abjection, 190, 254, 256 Africa, 2, 134, 219, 242 African diaspora, 179, 187 Agony, 38, 39, 206, 210, 250 Aichinger, Ilse, 9, 157–172, 173n1 and cinema, 9, 159, 163, 167–172 Film und Verhängnis: Blitzlichter auf ein Leben (Film and Fate Camera Flashes Illuminating a Life) (2001), 158 Unglaubwürdige Reisen (Improbable Journeys) (2005), 158 and Vienna, 157–160, 162–168, 170, 171 and writing, 161, 162, 166, 168, 170 Air raids, 38–45, 47, 51–53, 55 See also Japan Albert, Tony, 110, 114, 123–126

Algeria, 87, 134, 139, 145, 146, 151n3, 178, 180, 219–234, 235n3, 236n8, 236n11 Algerian War (1954–1962), 7, 134, 135, 138, 142, 151n3, 220–222, 236n11 independence day (5 July 1962), 220–221 Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire (book) (Lledo 2011), 222 Algérie, histoires à ne pas dire (documentary) (Lledo 2006), 222 Alić, Fikret, 198, 203–215, 216n4 Alleg, Henri, 178 Allende, Salvador, 293, 303n11 See also Chile Anti-Semitism, 157, 164, 166, 171, 186–189 See also Holocaust, the Anzac legend, 25, 29, 30 See also Australia

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2020 A. L. Hubbell et al. (eds.), Places of Traumatic Memory, Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies,




Argentina, 87, 91 Aristotle, 286, 294 Australia, 16, 25 ANZAC memorials, 122 Australian war memorials (AWM), 18, 26, 27, 110, 119 history of, 25, 26, 126 representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 125 Australian Vietnam Volunteers Resource Group (AVVRG), 21, 22 Australian War Memorial (AWM), 18, 26, 27, 110, 119, 127 Austria and historical responsibility, 160 Nazi annexation of, 157–158 Aylwin, Patricio, 299 B Bachelet, Michelle, 85, 93 See also Chile ‘Bad deaths,’ 62, 63, 65–71, 77 See also Mass graves Baltimore, 263, 268, 269 Barbados, 176, 179, 180, 186, 187, 191n7 Barthes, Roland, 180 Battlefield, 15–32, 111, 125, 138 Bhabha, Homi K., 177, 189–190 Binh Ba, 15–32 See also Vietnam (Viet Nam) Black Atlantic, 175–190 Black Atlantic triangle, 179 See also Slavery Blackness black skin, 9, 175–190 and racialisation, 188 versus whiteness, 188 Bodies and place, 263–281 as sites of memory/ trauma, 263–281 See also Blackness, black skin

Bosnia-Herzegovina Bosnian War (1992–1995), 208 genocide, 10, 216n7 See also Srebrenica Boulder, Colorado, 275–277, 280 Burial burial rites, 68–70 burial sites, 22, 72, 77 provisional burial, 43 See also Cremation; Mass graves Butler, Judith, 6, 181 C Canberra, 16, 21, 23, 24, 28, 119 Caribbean, the, 142, 145, 149, 179, 180, 187 literature, 180 Casting JonBenet (Green, 2017), 263–281 Catholic Church, 19, 268, 269 Cemeteries, 21, 23, 26, 27, 94, 151n14 war, 21, 23 See also Mass graves Cesnik, Cathy, 10, 263, 268–271 Children killing of, 187 as survivors, 37, 52, 224 Chile Chilean referendum, 1988, 287 civic-military regime, 1973–1989, 85 Chirac, Jacques, 135 Christian, 166, 180, 186, 187, 189, 231 and Christianisation, 180 Cinema as place of refuge, 169, 170 post-traumatic cinema, 292 Civilian casualities, 25, 40–41, 61–65, 204–205, 221, 235 Civil rights activism, 183 Civil war


Algerian civil war (1991–2002), 225 American, 183 See also War Cold War, 39, 63–65, 84 Cole, Joshua, 178, 179, 190, 237n13 Colonialism colonial empire, 135–144 colonisation, 4, 116, 134, 144, 187 harms caused by, 116–117, 126, 134–136, 141, 144, 178–180, 220–222 settlement colonies of, 144 See also Decolonisation Columbus, Christopher, 187 Commemoration, 2, 16–18, 21, 24, 26, 28–31, 40, 43, 46, 72, 76, 78n10, 84, 109–112, 114–120, 123, 125, 126, 136, 161, 220, 233, 234, 291 Communism, 64, 290 See also PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia, Indonesian Communist Party) Concentration camps, 64, 72, 169, 198, 204, 205, 208, 214 See also World War II Condé, Maryse, 9, 176–180, 182–189, 191n4 Conscription, 51, 112, 119, 158 Coral-Balmoral, 15–32 Cremation, 41 Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), 88 Crucible, The (Miller, 1953), 176 D Daily Mail, The newspaper, 208 Daily Mirror, The newspaper, 208 Dark tourism, 91, 92, 111 de Beauvoir, Simone, 178 Decolonisation, 220, 235n3 Democracy, 64, 295, 296, 298, 300–302 Deportation, 144, 145, 163, 166, 170, 215n3


Der Standard (The Standard) newspaper, 158 Desire, 69, 126, 143, 150, 182, 188–190, 203, 210, 214, 252, 289, 294, 301, 302 Detranslation, 287, 288 Diasporas, 179, 187, 199, 201 Dictatorship, 2, 8, 85, 89, 92, 93, 96, 100, 101, 285, 286, 288–290, 292–294, 298, 300–302, 303n3, 304n18 Die größere Hoffnung (The Greater Hope), (Aichinger, 1948), 157 Diên Biên Phù, 16, 30, 134, 138 1954 battle of, 134 Disappearing, 72, 170, 172, 173n5, 289 See also Argentina; Chile; Indonesia Disremembering, 19–20, 46, 48 Documentary actors’ traumatic memories, 277 close-ups, 271 and memory, 223 re-enactment, 273, 277 trauma documentary, 222, 223, 266 and truth, 4, 223, 279, 281 Dreyfus Affair (1894–1906), 187, 188 Du Bois, W.E.B. (1868–1963), 286–288, 293, 302 E Education, 20, 114, 116, 122, 135, 244, 252 Emotion fear, 289, 294 freedom, loss of, 207 guilt, 53, 289 happiness, 294 hope of, 97 Empathy empathic distress, 241–256 in film, 241–256 England, see United Kingdom (UK)



Ethnic cleansing, 210 Evian Accords, 220, 221 See also Algeria F Facebook, 62, 63, 72–74, 77, 77n1, 78n7, 215n1, 237n15 Fanon, Frantz, 6, 177, 185, 186, 188, 189 and epidermisation, 177 Peau noire, masques blancs (1952), 185 Fascism, 64, 76, 164–165, 172 Female genital cutting/mutiliation (FGC/FGM), 242–244, 256n1, 257n8 Film and empathy, 245 ethical turn in, 245 as form of remembering, 10, 170 Firebombing, 37–57 See also Japan First Indochina War (1945–1954), 138 First World War, see World War I Forgetting, 27, 30, 31, 46, 99, 136–139, 142, 176, 190, 197, 224 processes of, 30 France antisemitism in, 187 and colonial violence, 180 and racism, 187 and torture, 182 Fraser, Malcolm, 20 See also Australia Freedom, 64, 87, 91, 112, 118, 187, 207, 209, 242, 257n4 Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), 165 French Guiana, 143–150, 151n12 French Indochina, 134, 144

See also Colonialism, colonisation; Vietnam (Viet Nam) Freud, Sigmund, 172, 258n14, 265, 269, 274, 289 Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), 221, 237n18 See also Algeria G Gallipoli, 23, 29, 30, 109, 121, 123 See also ANZAC legend Genocide at Srebrenica, 198–200 during World War II, 47, 158–159 See also Holocaust, the; Politicide; World War II Germany, 32, 87 See also World War II Gestapo, 7, 160, 163, 164, 172 Vienna headquarters, 7, 160, 164 Ghana, 10, 175, 242, 243, 257n4, 257n5, 257n8, 258n12 Godard, Jean-Luc, 161, 168 Good War, 46–47 Grand Austrian State Prize, 157, 159, 160, 164 See also Aichinger, Ilse Grass between my Lips (Djansi 2008), 241–256 Grave of the Fireflies, see Hotaru no haka (Nosaka 1967), film 1988 Guardian, The newspaper, 26, 204, 208 Guilt, 38, 39, 45, 53, 96, 222, 226, 275, 278, 279, 289 H Hanoi, 20–22, 26, 27 See also Vietnam (Viet Nam) Happiness


in the Chilean ‘No’ campaign, 285, 300, 302 as resistance to trauma, 286 Haunting, 10, 61–77, 98, 207, 248, 266, 268, 273, 278, 281 bodily haunting, 272 See also Mass graves Hawke, Bob, 20 See also Australia Healing collective, 2, 101 of survivors, 8, 10, 50, 75 Hiroshima Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and Park, 39, 47, 50 Hiroshima Peace Memorial Hall/ Museum, 51, 53 survivors of the 1945 bombing, 90 See also Japan Histoire(s) du cinéma (Godard, 1998), 161 History challenges to national history, 139 history wars, 125 official, 3, 26, 232 Ho Chi Minh City, 16, 18, 22, 28 See also Vietnam (Viet Nam) Holiday, Billie, 191n7 Hollande, François, 233 Holocaust, the in Austria, 9, 157, 159 representations of, 9, 159 See also World War II Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) (1988), 44 Hotaru no haka (Nosaka 1967), film 1988, 44 Huffington Post newspaper, 222, 225, 231–233


Humanitarianism, 202, 203, 214 Humanitarian journalism ethics of, 214 and re-traumatisation of survivors, 197–215 Human rights, 3, 27, 73, 75, 202, 203, 209, 210, 212, 243, 302n2, 303n4 Hyde Park, Sydney, 109–127 I Identity collective, 137, 249 survivor’s identity, 10, 101, 201–207, 214 Indonesia, 63, 65, 66, 68, 72, 73, 78n3, 290 mass killings of 1965–1966, 61, 72 military, 62–64, 73, 74, 76 International People’s Tribunal for 1965, 73 See also Indonesia International relations, 16, 30 Islam, 68 See also Indonesia Israel, 87 I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem (Moi, Tituba, sorcière… Noire de Salem) (Condé 1986), 9, 176 J Jakarta, see Indonesia Japan Japanese victimhood, 51 national peace narrative, 51 Jardin d’Agronomie Tropicale, 140–142, 148 Jardin des Colonies, 142 Java, see Indonesia



Jingoism, 32 Journalism advocacy journalism, 202 and bias, 203, 212 ethics of, 10, 203 peace journalism, 202 and re-traumatisation of survivors, 197–215 role in recording testimony, 203 See also Humanitarian journalism; Photography K Keating, Paul, 20, 23 See also Australia Keepers, The (White, 2017), 263–281 Klüger, Ruth, 158 See also Austria; Holocaust, the Kobe, 38, 44 See also Japan Kohl, Helmut, 160 See also Germany Ku Klux Klan, 183 L Larraín, Pablo, 285–302 Latin America, 83–87, 91–92 LeMay, Curtis, 57 See also World War II Lieux de mémoire, 4, 115, 134–139, 146, 148 See also Nora, Pierre Like Cotton Twines (Kaleka 2016), 241–256 Lledo, Jean-Pierre, 222–234, 235n3, 236n9, 237n18, 237n19 Long Tan battle of, 16, 18, 24, 25, 27, 28 Long Tan Day, 24, 27, 28 Lynching, 181, 184, 191n7

M Macron, Emmanuel, 134, 136, 145 Malecki, Joyce, 268, 269, 271 See also Keepers, The (White, 2017) Malle, Louis, 168, 172 Mapping of burial sites, 61, 71–75 See also Indonesia; Mass graves Mass graves haunting of, 61–77 respect for, 69 See also Indonesia Massacre, 4, 7, 10, 25, 26, 62–65, 72, 73, 219–234 McNamara, Robert, 57 Mediatisation, 300 Melbourne, see Australia Memorial Memorial for consoling the souls of Tokyo Air Raids victims, 43 to slavery, 2, 175, 180, 183 See also Toni Morrison Society Memorialisation, 7, 8, 17, 20, 24, 26, 28, 30, 31, 45, 56, 65, 125, 145–147, 161, 180, 246, 247, 291 processes of, 16–18, 30–31, 125 Memory autobiographical, 223 and body, 50, 111, 263–281, 299 collective, 1, 7, 17, 39, 45, 50, 56, 86, 91, 92, 96, 113, 137, 138, 159–162, 214, 223, 241, 249, 265 construction of, 7, 86, 101, 140, 280, 281 counter-memory, 190 emotional, 48, 96–98, 291 historical, 47, 56, 96, 100, 159, 161, 223 individual, 1, 7–9, 17, 39, 48, 55, 56, 86, 101, 119, 121, 126, 159–162, 265


interrupted, 221 museum/centre, 3, 4, 7, 45, 48, 50, 52, 55, 83–87, 92, 99, 101 national, 52, 84, 101, 136–139, 233 and place, v, 1–11, 48, 53, 84, 90, 91, 94, 99–101, 121, 149, 179, 186, 197, 212, 224, 234, 263–281 politics of, 7, 61, 62, 76, 109, 127, 133–136, 234 public, 8, 45, 48, 53, 55, 56, 159, 161, 220, 275–281 recovered, 91, 269, 272 screen, 229, 263–281 sites of, 3–5, 7, 27, 31, 65, 76, 109–127, 133–150, 164, 175–190, 220, 224, 234, 246–250 social, 56, 61, 76, 265 (transgenerational) transfer of, 48, 52 traumatic, v, 1–11, 37–57, 101, 110, 111, 116, 117, 120, 121, 127, 177, 179, 183, 190, 197, 214, 220, 223, 229, 233, 236n9, 243, 247, 248, 253, 258n14, 264–267, 269, 273, 274, 277, 279–281, 290, 291, 294, 304n20 See also Trauma Memory Wars, French (Les Guerres de mémoire), 220 Migration, 135, 140 forced, 179 See also Slavery Monuments for commemoration, 40, 114 memorial monuments, 43, 45 Mourning official mourning, 161 rituals of, 72


Murder perpetrators of, 61, 178, 227, 264 victims of, 69–70, 167, 187, 276 See also Massacre Musée de la France d’Outre-mer, 140 Musée National des Arts a’Afrique et d’Océanie, 140 Museum, 2, 8, 18, 39, 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 55, 56, 76, 83–96, 98–101, 102n1, 102n3, 102n4, 110, 114, 140, 161, 236n10, 269, 270 visitor experiences of, 83 Museum of Memory and Human Rights, Chile (MMDH), 83, 303n4 visitor book, 83, 86–94, 97, 101 N Nagasaki, 39, 40, 43, 46, 50, 51 See also Japan Napalm, 51 See also Vietnam (Viet Nam) Narratives authorised, 39, 40, 46, 49, 55 of memory, 2, 4, 6, 39, 46, 88, 100, 110, 115, 117, 126, 140, 247, 248, 291 narrative discourse, 40, 49 of trauma, 2, 5, 6, 247 National Symposium on 1965, 73 See also Indonesia Nazism, 164, 168 See also Austria; World War II Netherlands, the, 73 ‘Never again,’ 84, 86, 93, 100, 113, 208 See also Holocaust, the New Caledonia, 143–148, 151n12, 151n13, 151n15



New Order (1966–1998), 64, 65, 71, 76 See also Indonesia Nishinomiya, 44 See also Japan Nixon, Richard, 183 No (dir. Pablo Larraín, 2012), 11, 285–302 See also Chile Nora, Pierre, 4, 76, 115, 136–140, 143, 148, 149, 151n3, 151n6, 177, 179, 180 and lieux de mémoire, 4, 115, 134–139, 146, 148 North Vietnam North Vietnamese Army (NVA), 16, 19, 21, 22, 24 See also Vietnam (Viet Nam) Nosaka, Akiyuki, 44 See also Hotaru no haka (Grave of the Fireflies) (1988) Nouméa colonisation of, 145 Kanak nationalism in, 145 See also Colonisation Nuclear bombing, 39, 46 See also Japan Nuclear disarmament, 39, 47 O Obama, Barrack, 183 Objectification, 180, 181, 211 Oran, 4, 219–234 massacre (5 July 1962), 219–234 Organisation de l’Armée Secrète (OAS), 221, 227, 230, 236n7, 237n17 See also Algeria Osaka fire bombings, 42, 54–55 Osaka International Peace Centre, 39, 40, 53–55 See also Japan Othering, 243, 253, 256

P Peace international, 47, 51 peace narrative, Japanese, 46, 47, 51 Photography in documentary, 72 as evidence, 26 and landscape, 73 photographic journalism, 207 and spectacle, 206, 207, 209, 210 Pieds-Noirs, 134, 222, 235n7, 236n11, 236n12 Pilgrimage, 4, 17, 23, 68, 92, 94, 111 Pinochet, Augusto, 11, 93, 95, 285, 289–291, 293, 295, 296, 298, 299, 302 dictatorship of, 11, 285, 298 See also Chile PKI (Partai Komunis Indonesia, Indonesian Communist Party), 64 See also Indonesia Place and body, 264, 267, 271, 281 and commemoration/ memorialisation, 2, 43 and memory, 1–11, 264, 267 and public memory, 275–281 of refuge, 165 of resistance/rebellion, 165 significance of, 43 and trauma, 266, 275–281 See also Sites of memory; Trauma Plumbon, see Indonesia Police violence, 178, 182, 184 See also Torture Politicide, see Indonesia Post-memory, 228 Potočari, 198, 200, 201 Prisoner of war camps, 15, 29 R Racialisation, 177, 179, 181, 187, 188 Racism, 177, 187, 190


Ramsey, JonBenet, 10, 264, 275–279, 281 Rape and racism, 177, 187 rape script, 181 See also Sexual violence Reagan, Ronald, 183 Reconciliation, 16, 23, 30, 31, 92, 101, 220, 234 Re-enactment sequences and bodies, 274 and haunting, 266, 268, 281 purposes of, 273 and traumatic memory, 265, 274 Refusal, 100, 135, 187, 226, 297, 298, 302 Remembering community-based remembering, 55 and film, 10 processes of, 48, 172 of war, 50, 111 See also Disremembering Repetition of trauma through memory and racism, 177, 179, 190 Resistance collective, 299, 300, 302 happiness as resistance, 286, 295 individual, 286 Retemporalisation, 287 Re-traumatisation, 10 Ritual, 45, 62, 68–70, 72, 76, 111, 114, 243, 244, 256n1, 257n6 Ruins, 5–7, 9, 10, 136, 139–143, 145, 148–150, 229, 230, 266 S Saavedra, René, 286, 291 See also No (dir. Pablo Larraín, 2012) Saigon, see Ho Chi Minh City Salem (Massachusetts), 176, 177, 179, 186 Salem witch trials (1692–1693), 176


Sarajevo, 199 Sarkozy, Nicolas, 134, 135, 150n2 Sartre, Jean-Paul, 186–189 theory of anti-Semitism, 186 Scholl, Hans and Sophie, 160 See also World War II Screen memory, 263–281 Second Indochina War (Vietnam or American War, 1955–1975), 15–32 Second World War, see World War II Segregation, 177, 183 Sennintsuka (monument for the thousand), 41, 42 Sexual violence, 178, 180 sexual abuse, 268, 269, 271, 273 See also Rape Shame, 96, 250, 289 Sidi El Houari, 225–228, 230–231 See also Algeria; Oran Silence of collective trauma narratives, 56 of personal trauma narratives, 55 silent voice, 208 Sites of memory, 3, 5, 31, 115, 121, 122, 125, 126, 133–150, 164, 175, 183, 186, 220, 224 Slavery, 2, 4, 9, 144, 175, 177–181, 183, 186, 188, 250, 301 racialisation of, 177, 179 Solidarity, 49, 98, 100, 159, 166, 170, 288, 297, 298 Speech act, 5, 84, 88, 91, 92, 94–96, 99 Spirits (of victims), 45 See also Haunting; Mass graves Srebrenica genocide at, 198–200 memorial, 201 Star, The newspaper, 208 Stora, Benjamin, 139, 219, 220, 222, 233, 235n3, 235n4, 237n19 Studio Ghibli, 44 animations by, 44



Suharto, 63, 64 See also Indonesia Sukarno, 63, 64 See also Indonesia Sumatra, see Indonesia Sumida Kyodo Bunka Shiryoukan, 53 See also Japan; Tokyo Sun, The newspaper, 211, 212, 215 Survivors as ‘living memories,’ 50 representation of by the media, 198, 201, 204 trauma narratives of, 222, 291 as volunteers, 50, 56, 90 T Takahata, Isao, 44 See also Studio Ghibli Testimonio, 101 Testimony and bodies, 272 and documentary, 223, 269 drawings/paintings as testimony, 51, 53 oral, 5, 46, 223, 274 Thai-Burma railway, 23, 29, 30 Time magazine, 198, 204–206, 209, 211, 215, 216n7 Tokyo Centre for the Tokyo Raids and War Damage (Tokyo Daikushu Sensai Shiryou Centre), 52 fire bombings, 7 Ireido, 41, 43 Toni Morrison Society, 175 and monuments, 175 Torture and racism, 177, 190 and repetition, 183 and slavery, 2, 177, 178 torturer, 179, 181, 189, 190 See also Police violence Translanguaging, 226

Trauma anger, traumatic, 255, 289, 290 collective, 56, 85, 289 experiential, 247 racist, 182, 183 recovery from, 291, 297, 299 repression of, 294 trauma healing, 75 trauma theory, 289 traumatic memory, 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 37–57, 101, 110, 116, 117, 177, 179, 183, 190, 197, 214, 223, 229, 233, 236n9, 243, 247, 248, 253, 258n14, 265–267, 269, 273, 274, 279–281, 290, 291, 294, 304n20 See also Re-traumatisation Trnopolje concentration camp, 198, 204, 205 Trokosi (ritual deity servitude), 242–244, 246–253, 256, 257n4, 257n5, 257n6, 258n9, 258n12 See also Ghana True crime, 263, 266, 267, 281 documentary, 263–281 Trump, Donald J., 182, 183 witch hunt, 183 Trump, Donald J. (Jr.), 183 Truth and journalism, 10 and memory, 223 truth-telling, 62, 65, 71–76, 232 Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Chile in 1991 (Rettig Report), 303n2 in 2004 (Valech Report), 85, 303n2 Turnbull, Malcolm, 26, 27 See also Australia U United Kingdom (UK), 92, 135, 158, 168, 172, 208 United Nations (UN), 20, 84, 198, 201


United States of America civil war, 183 and Jim Crow South, 183 UNREST (Unsettling Remembering and Social Cohesion in Transnational Europe), 110, 112 Urban landscape, 38, 143 V Veterans, 16, 21–23, 25, 26, 28–31, 111, 121, 122, 125, 127 Vicarious trauma, 245, 250, 254, 256 Victims compensation for, 75 families of, 199 rights of, 84 victimisation, 252 Vienna, see Austria Viet Cong (National Liberation Front), 16, 17, 19, 21, 24, 31 Việt Minh (League for Vietnamese Independence), 134, 138 Vietnam (Viet Nam), 7, 16, 17, 20, 21, 26, 28, 30–32, 138, 143, 146 Vietnam war (Second Indochina War or American War, 1955–1975), 15–32 Villers-Bretonneux, 23, 111 See also Australian War Memorial (AWM) Vulliamy, Ed, 204, 208 See also Journalism W War, 2, 6, 15–17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 27–32, 39, 40, 44, 45, 47, 48, 50–52, 54, 55, 57, 84, 94, 110, 111, 113, 114, 118–122, 125, 126, 134, 139, 141, 158, 160, 165–167, 169, 179, 198, 199,


203, 206, 209, 210, 213, 214, 220–225, 227, 233, 234, 236n12 Welles, Orson, 165, 166 Whitlam, Gough, 20 See also Australia Witchcraft witch hunt, 177, 183, 190 witch trials, 176, 177, 179 Witness, 1, 4–8, 10, 11, 37–57, 62, 65, 71, 73, 75, 77, 91, 92, 99, 197, 203, 204, 209, 210, 222–224, 228, 229, 234, 235n6, 236n10, 241, 245–248, 251–255, 269 silenced witnesses, 40 Witnessing, 6, 198, 201, 204, 208, 209, 213, 241, 245, 246, 251, 252, 292 World War I, 9, 23, 29, 109–127, 141 World War II, 7, 19, 29, 32, 134, 135, 157, 165, 169 See also Austria; Holocaust, the; Japan Wound culture, 267 X Xenophobia, 165 Y Yininmadyemi Thou didst let Fall (2015), 110, 123, 124, 126 See also Albert, Tony; Hyde Park, Sydney YPKP 1965–1966 (Foundation for Research into the Victims of the 1965–1966 Massacres), 62, 65, 71–75, 77, 78n7, 78n10 See also Indonesia Yugoslavia, the former, 209