Yoalli Rodriguez, Vasilina Orlova
Allen Feldman is an anthropologist and cultural theorist. Graduated with his PhD from New School for Social Research, where he got his previous degrees, Master’s and Bachelor’s. He is currently teaching at the department of culture and communication at the New York University (NYU) Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.
The themes with which he engages are visual culture and violence, narrative production, political anthropology, racialization, body, performance, state, memory, the political archaeology of media, and technology.
His works include:
-“The Northern Fiddler, an oral history study of traditional Irish music.” 2007.
- His first book Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland, University of Chicago Press, 1991
-Archives of the Insensible: of War, Photopolitics and Dead Memory, University of Chicago Press, 2015
From 1997-2000 Feldman conducted ethnographic fieldwork on The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
1. If “the exposure of the scarred body in the abolitionist oration stands in relation to the exposure of the slave’s body as commodity on the auction block,” does not it suggest that more often than not the practices of memorialization of violence play into the power balance that benefits not the survivors but the perpetrators? Is there any way to escape this imbalance?
2. It is a consumerist and othering attitude to asking people to speak up and bear witness for their struggle, then how do we make witnessing happening? What conditions should be satisfied for a testimony to be freed from the packaging of it into the consumable forms?
3. Feldman argues “The act of contemporary human right witnessing to the degree that such witness simulates violence in terms of the dynamics of authentication”(191). In what ways witnessing can be considered a positivist (rationalism) act, -interpreted and validated through evidence- and thus, an imposition of the (one) truth? How witnessing erases some narratives and highlight others, or, even creates “hierarchies of victims and suffering” (184)?
4. What are the risks of “creating a universalized human right subject (185)” while blurring particular contexts, or narrowing the narratives to psychological and legal discourses? In this process of translation -from life stories to human rights-, what are the epistemological and ontological consequences?
A Collection of Concepts
The collection of concepts is a miscellaneous number of different things each of which opens endless possibilities to engagement. In class, we may skim them briefly and identify the ones we would like to give a definition based on the Feldman’s work.
Catharsis: from the greek kathari , cleanse or purify.
Performance of the body: primordial landscape of the racialized body in the aftermath of the giving of testimony. (190)
materialities of pain and suffering
quasi-medicalized tropes of trauma
dramaturgy of witnessing
practices of atrocity
asymmetrical theaters of witnessing
pastness of prior violence
political emergency zones
Africanization of remembrance
the juridical monadic subject of the West
valorization of memory
the trauma trope
instrumentation of the body
theaters of witnessing
visual culture of victimage
countermemory of witnessing
etymology of torture
the traces of the absent, the disappeared, and the dead
arenas of judgement and didactic spaces of disorder