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Anthro-History Workshop: "On being disappeared"

Friday, March 25, 2016
12:00 AM
Tisch Hall

This chapter is about the narrating of violence, the affective half-life of torture, and the embodied poetics of testimony. It reflects on and takes the form of a fragmented life story—that of a Mexican rickshaw driver haunted by traumatic memories of being abducted and tortured by the Mexican military for alleged clandestine activities as an indigenous guerrilla in the 1990s. Aureliano’s testimony reveals viscerally saturated memories of what it was like to be forcibly “disappeared” (desaparecido) and routinely tortured. His words and stories also reveal what it means to live, in the present, with the traumatic imprints of a none-too-distant violent past. After being “re-appeared” through a state-of-exceptional sleight of legal hand, there came time in state prison, a hunger strike, federal prison; eventually, liberation. Yet, even in freedom, the prison has not left him entirely. A scent of deodorant, the taste of food, certain songs or combinations of words, are all part of a constant barrage of reminders and triggers that meld past and present. Testimony emerges here as more than a historical text or an expression of memory or ideology. Giving testimony reenacts the destruction of the world and language that is involved in torture and giving (testimonial) forced confession—yet it enacts a simultaneous reconstruction of world and language, as voice attempts to subsume and channel the droning of violence.

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