Monday, April 7, 2014

silent i

A comment that (apparently?) continues to await moderation at The New Inquiry, in response to Aaron Bady's "(Some Provisional Writing on) Time, Poetry, and the ICC Witness Project” (March 29, 2014). Original comment date March 30, 2014:

I’ve been reading your blog [zunguzungu] for a little while…and i’m kind of provoked by these issues to finally respond in person, although i’ve kind of (i hope you don’t mind) referred to your writing (specifically, on Bartleby) in other places. Among other things, I’m interested in your formulation of the “violation co-extensive with silence,” which seems to propose that this is both something to question and also the condition upon which “agency,” under the model of human rights discourse, is conceptualized. As you describe, this moment also, then, contributes to an event’s being determined as “past” and thus as “historical” and thus as something that can be dealt with, versus something that is not perhaps turned into an object of the past, to be dealt with, and so on.

It seems like silence is kind of falsely reparative in this sense–or as Bob Meister might say in *After Evil,* that this is an instance of “manic reparation,” a kind of reparation that is about inscribing the legitimacy of juridical structures (of HRD) rather than doing justice for the victims (these are his terms). I guess I tend to think that silence, when invoked, does get used against those who were violated, in this way. But silence, as you suggest, that is co-extensive with violation, might be something else. It’s interesting in the report you cite, how “silence” is listed with “tears” and “emotion” as something that cannot be expressed in the form of the report, almost as an index of emotionality itself. Silence seems to stand here for the unsayable, the unspeakable, for the inadequacy of language–already kind of pushing it over into the kind of silence-as-manic-reparation. But I don’t know if this is how you are reading it or how you are thinking of it, in this passage or in other places. It also seems like “silence” as an extension of violation could help to think about ongoing violence/violation that is not captured as an object of the past.

And it’s interesting–I think that poetry, when it gets roped into this context, does sometimes help get to different questions about the place of political violation/violence in psychosocial trauma, questions that emphasize–as I think you are saying–the importance of looking at political violence instead of just seeing psychosocial trauma (sorry–i’ve kind of falsely opposed political and psychosocial here, maybe it’s not necessary). I tend to think about this as a matter of how the “I” becomes a problem in (lyric) poetry. But it is also perhaps less about poetics and just as much about a narrative of poetry in which poetry disappoints its expressive function, or the expectations of this function (as perhaps coalesce around the poetry/barbarism/Auschwitz question)…I’d be interested in more about Kenya, about how the span indicated with the initiation of the commission (1963-2008) also comes to count 2008 as a kind of endpoint, or the term around which the *post* is figured. These are really just associations, or actually, kind of rephrasings of what you’ve written. I hope it’s okay. It follows my own kind of burst of idealism about SC, as well, fwiw, and thanks–

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