Reverberations: Violence across Time and Space

26 - 28 March 2015


This conference aims to generate new concepts for the study of violence and its aftermath. We invite innovative ethnographic studies that attend to the enduring distribution and reverberation of violence across space, time and other dimensions, both in and beyond the interiority and inter-subjectivity of the human being. Specifically we would like to ask what are the potentials and dangers of displacing the human from its central position within studies of violence? And, what can a post-humanist analysis of violence look like?

Many studies on violence to date have assumed an anthropocentric framework inspired by humanist philosophies. Violence done to the human self and body (on an individual or massive scale) has thereby formed the primary concern and engendered conceptualizations drawing on tools of theories of ‘subjectivity.’ Concepts thus applied and theorized range from ‘trauma’ to ‘melancholia,’ ‘mourning,’ ‘nostalgia,’ ‘loss,’ and ‘suffering,’ unpacked via versions of ‘memory studies.’ On the other hand, by engaging the limits of language and representation and by following displacements and responses across and beyond bodies and technologies, studies on violence have also partaken in moves to deconstruct and complicate notions of the human. Scholars in this vein have begun to explore the reach of violence across time, space and materialities as ‘ruination,’ as well as its mystical supernatural apparitions via ‘haunting’.

Foucault was arguably the first post-humanist philosopher to analyse violence in spaces, time, institutions, and regulations, beyond the wounds inflicted through torture upon the human body. This conference aims to build upon this post-humanist trajectory by taking on board, in the study of violence, other more recent challenges from affect theory and the new materialisms. In doing so, however, we do not aim to advocate any clear theoretical orientation or trajectory, but instead to create a space for the discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of different frameworks. A critical engagement with humanist legacies within studies of violence that focus singularly on human subjectivity might thus be matched by reflections on how recent post-humanist approaches, in ‘distributing subjectivity outside’

(Latour) have, in reverse, failed to explore the body, inter-subjectivity, and gender.

We invite scholars into a space for critical discussion where we aim to generate new concepts, frameworks and modes of enquiry through historically and ethnographically specific cases on the longue durée, spatial expanse and material reverberations of violent pasts. Ethnographies in this vein could account for violence as it seeps into the environment, the atmosphere, air, nature, people’s relations with supernatural beings, with their objects, spaces, the built environment, technologies and other rationalities, as well as with each other. Such studies would attend to criss- crossing relations that involve violence (human body-environment- materiality-space-time) without singularly framing violence in the asymmetrical inter-subjective relation between perpetrator and victim. Instead they would study violence as it crosses substances, fields, institutions, and inter-subjective relations, how violence gets reconfigured, how it assumes other chemistries or appears in new moulds and shapes. The historical and the ethnographic will drive the analyses invited such that specific rather than abstract conceptualizations of violence are developed and discussed.

Organizing Committee: Yael Navaro-Yashin, Zerrin Ozlem Biner, Alice von Bieberstein, Seda Altug

Exhibition Curator: Emrah Gokdemir

REMNANTS project, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Sponsored by: European Research Council (ERC) and the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge