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Victime testimony and Understanding Mass Violence

Le témoignage des victimes dans la connaissance des violences de masse

Theme issue of the journal Études arméniennes contemporaines (EAC # 5 – June 2015)

Numéro spécial de la revue Études arméniennes contemporaines (EAC n°5 – juin 2015)

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Published on Monday, September 08, 2014 by Elsa Zotian

Summary

The topic of this special themed issue is victim testimony and its role in shaping how people have understood mass violence in the 20th and 21st centuries, in Europe and outside Europe. Victim testimonies have been highly contested source materials and types of representation, giving rise to historical, political, juridical, epistemological, and literary debates about their status, uses, and meanings. Beyond the field of history, it is important both to underscore the specific contribution that materials produced by victims have made to our knowledge of experiences of Catastrophe, and also to integrate into the study of mass violence scholarly analyses of the personal and collective issues and challenges that have played a role in shaping the very act of bearing witness.

Announcement

Argument

The topic of this special themed issue is victim testimony and its role in shaping how people have understood mass violence in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Victim testimonies have been highly contested source materials and types of representation, giving rise to historical, political, juridical, epistemological, and literary debates about their status, uses, and meanings. Historians, among others, have yet to reach a consensus on the status and uses of victim and survivor testimony when it comes to documenting crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocides. The historiography of the Armenian genocide, for example, has long privileged and relied on official documents and diplomatic sources, as well as the testimonies recorded by “third party” witnesses such as missionaries, doctors, or foreign consular officials who were in Anatolia during the First World War. Only beginning in the 1990s have historians of the Armenian genocide come to consider the testimonies produced by the victims of the massacres as sources worthy of scholarly interest. Such a delay in the appreciation and use of such sources can in part be explained by the difficulty in accessing them for linguistic reasons and also because they existed only in manuscript form in archives. Beyond such technical matters, however, a certain reticence on the part of historians was also detectable, a reticence about basing a historically objective analysis on sources that, by their provenance alone, appeared to be tainted by the subjectivity of the victims and the experiences they lived through. Nevertheless, the study of victim testimonies has made it possible to move beyond a broad overview of the perpetration of the genocide, based essentially on official state archives, and to begin to sketch micro-historical analyses of the destruction of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Beyond the Armenian case, questions about the status and uses of testimony are pertinent to all studies of mass violence, including work on pogroms in Eastern Europe in the early twentieth century, the Shoah, the genocides in Cambodia and in Rwanda, the crimes committed in the course of recent conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and Chechnya, among other places, as well as various episodes of colonial conquest.

The journal Études arméniennes contemporaines invites submissions that reflect on the theme of victim testimony and mass violence in the period of the early twentieth century up to the present, in Europe and outside Europe. We are open to scholars working in any areas of the humanities and social sciences, though we are especially interested in comparative, transnational, or multidirectional approaches that investigate the processes and consequences of the recording, collection, preservation, and transmission of victim testimonies about mass violence. Beyond the field of history, it is important both to underscore the specific contribution that materials produced by victims have made to our knowledge of experiences of Catastrophe, and also to integrate into the study of mass violence scholarly analyses of the personal and collective issues and challenges that have played a fundamental role in shaping the very act of bearing witness.

Possible questions to consider (but are not restrictive):

• is “testimony” a genre? What does it mean to speak of victim “testimony”? What is included, excluded, and occluded by the category of “testimony”? To what extent are the texts that were produced contemporaneously with the unfolding of mass violence, for example, best understood in terms of being “early testimonies”? What is the significance of different temporal and geographic contexts for analyzing the production of testimony by victims of genocide and mass violence?

• what status have victim testimonies had in history writing and other fields? How has their historical, juridical, and epistemological status changed over time? What relationship(s) can be drawn between the different historiographies of twentieth-century mass violence and the (sometimes-systematic) efforts to record and collect victim “testimonies”?

• what politics have variously accompanied “witnessing”? What has constituted testimonies’ reception, function, and meaning? In particular, how does the advent of the “era of the witness,” conceptualized by Annette Wieviorka in relation to Holocaust testimony, relate to other ethnic and national memory cultures?

Submission guidelines

The editors invite submissions in English or French. Article abstracts of between 450 and 500 words, along with a working title and a short biographical note, should be sent to the editors of the issue:

by November 3, 2014.

The articles (6000-8000 words, including notes and bibliography) selected by the Editorial Board of Études arméniennes contemporaines for inclusion in the theme issue should be ready for peer review by February 15, 2015. Publication is planned for June 2015.

Scientific committee

  • Boris Adjemian, chargé de cours à l'université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense
  • Alexandra Garbarini, associate professor of history, Williams College (Mass.)
  • Sévane Garibian, maître de conférences, universités de Genève et Neuchâtel
  • Taline Papazian, chargée de cours à Sciences Po Paris
  • Talin Suciyan, assistant professor, Ludwig Maximilian Universität München
  • Julien Zarifian, maître de conférence, université de Cergy-Pontoise
  • Vincent Duclert, chercheur associé au Centre d'études sociologiques et politiques Raymond-Aron (EHESS)

Date(s)

  • Monday, November 03, 2014

Attached files

Keywords

  • témoin, témoignage, victimes, génocides, violences de masse

Contact(s)

  • Boris Adjemian
    courriel : eac [at] openedition [dot] org

Information source

  • Boris Adjemian
    courriel : eac [at] openedition [dot] org

To cite this announcement

« Victime testimony and Understanding Mass Violence », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Monday, September 08, 2014, https://calenda.org/298763

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