Join us for a conversation with Emilie Diouf.
Free and Open to the Public!
When: Thursday, Nov. 8 at 6pm
Where: Boston University, African Studies Center, 232 Bay State Rd, Rm 505, Boston, MA 02215
As a result of advocacy against Female Genital Mutilation, African women’s traumatic experiences of sexual violence have often been interpreted and showcased as evidence of extreme gender-based abuses in humanitarian activism. Consequently, African women’s trauma narratives are ingeniously deployed, at times even marketed as an identity bound shared experience capable of articulating new politics of becoming for all women’s struggles for rights. Thus, in international media and policy spaces, African women have in some ways become the ones who narrate their suffering. Although stories that feature African women’s experiences of gender violence and trauma are powerful tools for justice, at times these stories can be limiting when the narrative logic that produces them are embedded in some hegemonic angles of critical vision. As in the case of currencies that flow within the international monetary system, African women’s traumas can be devalued.
If trauma is the expected narrative from African women in the global humanitarian discourse, what are the political and symbolic implications of such a discursive positionality? How can humanitarian advocacy withstand the vicissitudes of victimization while remaining committed to the necessity to validate abuses suffered by African women? What is at stake when we routinely perceive African women through the lens of their suffering and not through their political agency?
Through a reading of Fauziya Kassidja’s Do They Hear You When You Cry (1998), this talk will first highlight the ways in which the global Humanitarian Regime operates as a dialogic space in which African female subjectivities are discursively articulated and transformed into currency. This talk will then proceed to consider ethical translation as an approach to mediating African women’s experiences of sexual violence. Ethical translation takes into consideration the ways in which the interactive dynamics between the context of trauma narration and the conditions of reception play into the readings and interpretations attached to African women’s narratives of sexual violence.