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Remembering Mass Violence

Remembering Mass Violence: Oral History, New Media and Performance

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 376
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  • Book Info
    Remembering Mass Violence
    Book Description:

    Remembering Mass Violencebreaks new ground in oral history, new media, and performance studies by exploring what is at stake when we attempt to represent war, genocide, and other violations of human rights in a variety of creative works.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6658-0
    Subjects: History, Performing Arts, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-32)
    Steven High and Edward Little

    Anthropologist Julie Cruikshank writes that stories, like good scholarly monographs, “explore connections underlying surface diversity.”³ The same is true of edited collections. On the surface, the essays comprising this anthology are about disparate instances of war, genocide, and human rights abuses. They are remembered and interpreted within a variety of historical, geographic, and temporal contexts. The violations range from political repression to discrimination, dispossession, rape, torture, and mass murder. The locations encompass Northern Uganda, Argentina, Turkey, Morocco, Cambodia, New Orleans, Rwanda, Winnipeg, and Montreal. The events extend from European “contact” and the dispossession that continues today, to the bitter aftermath...

  5. Part One: Turning Private History into Public Knowledge

    • 1 Voices, Places, and Spaces
      (pp. 35-48)

      For oral historians, images of “voices” and “places” are familiar. Listening to people remember, and reflect upon, particular historical circumstances is what we do. For me, that has meant primarily listening to Holocaust survivors. And so that is my focus here.

      The notion of space deserves further explanation. As I use it in this chapter, I intend it in a literal, topographic sense. I will be concerned with dimensions, with connections and fissures, with what is inside and what is outside. So while “place” indicates geographic location, “space” is a more abstract, essentially geometric concept in what follows. It is...

    • 2 So Far from Home
      (pp. 49-60)

      Traditional Armenian tales begin, “Once there was and was not.” This not-so-simple sentence encapsulates the legacy of the Armenian genocide and its denial. Once there was, and now there isn’t. I learned from an early age that being a diaspora Armenian means having a connection to a Western Armenian culture that developed over two millennia in a historical homeland that, since 1915, no longer exists. I had lost something I never really had. Those of us of the second generation who live with the aftermath of the Armenian genocide and the Shoah understand our loss in a similar manner. Writer...

  6. Part Two: Performing Human Rights

    • 3 Soldiers’ Tales Untold: Trauma, Narrative, and Remembering through Performance
      (pp. 63-76)

      Stravinsky’sThe Soldier’s Tale(L’histoire du soldat, 1918) is a classic Faustian fable of temptation, loss, and irredeemable knowledge. A contemporary deconstruction of the piece by Boston-based composer Shaw Pong Liu (Soldiers’ Tales Untold, 2008) uses the narrative and musical architecture of the original as staging to present the unincorporated testimony of combat veterans. Her strategy confronts both the rarefied abstraction of the classical art world and the blithe complacency of a civilian public insulated from the reality of war. It also suggests new formal possibilities for acknowledging, documenting, and processing the psychological and social trauma wrought by war through...

    • 4 Lamentations: A Gestural Theatre in the Realm of Shadows
      (pp. 77-90)

      We cannot keep our hands, eyes, shoulders, neck still when we tell the story of our life. We move them to underline statements, to visualize spaces and movements, to delineate people and actions – and, in comforting ourselves, to assure ourselves of our own reality.

      Many of these movements are specific to our social environment, and our level of understanding the gestures of people around us will often determine whether we feel at home or at sea in any specific social situation.

      In many non-Western performing arts (such as Bharata Natyam, Kuttiyattam, No, or the different types of Chinese opera) codified...

    • 5 Turning Together: Playback Theatre, Oral History, Trauma, and Arts-Based Research in the Montreal Life Stories Project
      (pp. 91-110)

      Nisha: This is a transcript of one performance interspersed with current reflections. We will be sharing with you the story of the Living Histories Ensemble (LHE)¹ and, in particular, the ways in which we have been thinking about our work as a form of arts-based research through performative inquiry. We have chosen this format because it reflects the performative nature of our praxis, and because we feel that the best way to bring the reader into our process is not to describe it, but to engage the audience within it. Sharing our learnings in the form of a script also...

    • 6 Stories Scorched from the Desert Sun: Performing Testimony, Narrating Process
      (pp. 111-128)

      In January 2009 Hourig Attarian and Rachael Van Fossen came together to work on a performance creation for the oral history and performance group,¹ within the larger Community and University Research Alliance project Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide, and Other Human Rights Violations at Concordia University. In the following months, the collaboration led to a complex dialogue on process between Rachael and Hourig, which resulted in a new collaborative text, presented at the “Remembering War, Genocide and Other Human Rights Violations” conference.

      As part of the Untold Histories project of the Oral History and Performance Group, we...

  7. Part Three: Oral History and Digital Media

    • 7 Oral History in the Age of Social Media Networks: Life Stories on CitizenShift and Parole Citoyenne
      (pp. 131-151)

      Back in 2007, when the project entitled Life Stories of Montrealers Displaced by War, Genocide, and other Human Rights Violations was still in its embryonic phases, a spark of an idea for collaboration was struck up between Dr Steven High, Canada Research Chair in Public History and Head of Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History, and Dr Johannes Stroble, my thesis adviser in Concordia’s Department of Educational Technology. The idea was to see if CitizenShift, the Citizen Media Web platform I was producing at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB), could become a partner on the Montreal Life Stories...

    • 8 Co-Creating Our Story: Making a Documentary Film
      (pp. 152-170)

      At the screening of the student-made documentary film about the Cambodian genocide, one student summarized our grade 11 humanities course: “It was about listening. More than hearing people talk about history, we learned to listen to stories of horrifying events, and why hope is essential to survival.” This article documents the process of creating a documentary film based on oral history in a high school class. We, grade 11 student Noelia and teacher Megan, dialogue about authority, pedagogy, and collaboration. We show how engagement with oral history provides students and teachers with avenues for deep learning, identity formation, and relation...

    • 9 Connecting the Dots: Memory and Multimedia in Northern Uganda
      (pp. 171-183)

      We sat under the scorching sun and interviewed Mr Olanyo¹ for nearly an hour. We were researching the relationship between “transitional justice” and “economic development” in war-affected northern Uganda. As a traditional leader, he was accustomed to Western researchers and these kinds of questions. When we finished, he leaned back into the plastic chair, smiled, and asked us why we were not conducting the research his community actually needed. He then told us the story of Barlonyo.

      Barlonyo is located near Lira Town in northern Uganda. As danger and insecurity increased in the community during the more than two-decade civil...

    • 10 Arrival Stories: Using Media to Create Connections in a Refugee Residence
      (pp. 184-200)

      There are thirty-five men seated around fold-up tables in the Maison Haidar basement, a room that alternatively serves as a makeshift bedroom, a workshop space, or whatever the room is needed for. Today we – Michele Luchs and Liz Miller, documentary makers and educators – are using the room for our digital story/photography workshop and have just explained the first exercise to the group currently residing at Maison Haidar, while they apply for asylum. They look quizzically at us, each other, the coloured pens on the table, and the blank piece of paper in front of them. We have asked participants to...

  8. Part Four: Life Stories

    • 11 “So You Want to Hear Our Ghetto Stories?” Oral History at Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre
      (pp. 203-218)

      “So you want to hear our ghetto stories?” The question came from a young Aboriginal woman who was being asked to participate in our oral history project. Her query seemed to express a recognition of her vulnerability to exploitation, colonization, and exoticization through our research – and even through our presence in her community. It also suggested her awareness of the ways in which “ghetto stories” can lend authority – or “street cred” – to those who can appropriate them despite their own social distance from such experiences. It was a telling reminder of our positionality and the power dynamics that were at...

    • 12 Dishonour, Dispersion, and Dispossession: Race and Rights in Twenty-First-Century North America – A View from the Lower Ninth Ward
      (pp. 219-235)

      Hurricane Katrina’s immediate aftermath in New Orleans shed an internationally televised spotlight on the rudimentary human rights for African Americans in the United States.² Domestically, the issue was whether state resources, ranging from rescue equipment and medical supplies to food and water, could be used in a racially disparate manner to privilege the lives and property of whites over African Americans in the Greater New Orleans Region, without accountability.³ The United States government, the Army Corps of Engineers, and agents of the State of Louisiana have defended themselves against indirect class action lawsuits, not by justifying their agents’ actions but...

    • 13 The Romance of Reminiscence: Problems Posed in Life Histories with Activist Pensioners in Argentina
      (pp. 236-249)

      As an anthropologist, one of the most important things I do in field research is listen. I hope to hear stories that will help me understand how a given group of people experience, understand, and interpret the world. There is something enormously compelling about first-hand accounts, and I often animate my writing with these stories, hoping to communicate local perspectives and to populate descriptions of social processes which might otherwise seem too abstract. Even tales of horror can be fascinating – witness the enormous Holocaust literature. Yet this fascination makes me uneasy as well.

      I write in sympathy with the framing...

    • 14 Mémoires des Migrations de juifs marocains à Montréal
      (pp. 250-274)

      Les migrations post-coloniales permettent d’appréhender les reconstructions communautaires et nationales à partir du positionnement singulier des migrants à leur arrivée dans leur nouveau pays d’accueil. C’est le cas des migrations maghrébines qui conduisent chrétiens (rapatriés et pieds-noirs d’Algérie surtout mais pas seulement), musulmans et juifs à quitter les espaces coloniaux et nationaux pour se retrouver dans des villes de la France métropolitaine, un peu plus tardivement au Canada et ailleurs dans le monde occidental. Parce que ces migrants transnationaux conservent dans un premier temps les caractères propres à leur pays d’origine, il convient d’étudier le phénomène dans une perspective longitudinale,...

  9. Part Five: Rwanda in the Aftermath of Genocide

    • 15 Viols des femmes tutsi pendant le génocide: Témoignage de Mme Mukarwego
      (pp. 277-281)

      C’est le matin que mon mari m’a dit que l’avion du président a été … est tombé. Parce qu’il y avait l’information à la radio qui disait : « La population rwandaise doit rester chez elle pour que les forces de l’ordre puissent faire leur devoir » . On est resté dans la maison … on n’est pas sorti pour travailler, sauf que nous, les enseignants on était en vacances de Pâques … Donc les massacres ont commencé … toute la journée, progressivement, jusqu’à ce que le quartier là où j’habitais soit atteint. J’entendais « machetter » chez les voisins...

    • 16 Les viols pendant le génocide des Tutsi: Un crime d’envie
      (pp. 282-296)

      Le génocide contre les Tutsi du Rwanda en 1994 a occasionné plus ou moins un million de morts. Cette tragédie qui a duré 100 jours, se caractérise par la proximité physique et sociale très étroite entre les victimes et les bourreaux et le recours aux armes blanches pour faire souffrir les victimes de façon sadique. Parmi celles-ci, plusieurs durent implorer, voire soudoyer les bourreaux au moyen d’importantes sommes d’argent pour être achevées au fusil plutôt que déchiquetées à la machette.⁵ Par ailleurs, le génocide des Tutsi du Rwanda se caractérise aussi par l’ampleur des viols et par les mutilations nombreuses...

    • 17 Hearing the Untold Story: Documenting LGBTI Lives in Rwanda
      (pp. 297-315)

      Archives have historically been spaces that reflect the histories and stories of those in power. The voices of the poor, the unwell, the persecuted, and the abused are seldom heard. It is rare for survivors of political violence or human rights abuses to have documentation of what they have endured. When war and catastrophe strike, people flee their homes and workplaces, leaving everything behind, sometimes never to return. Photographs and paper documentation, such as letters and diaries, are easily destroyed – assuming such documents even existed in the first place. Electronic records can be deleted and files can become corrupted in...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 316-320)

    The Montreal Life Stories project places a great deal of emphasis on the voice of community. At the same time, it enables a better understanding of the individual life stories of those displaced by mass violence and of the long-term impact of war, genocide, and other human rights violations on the individual and on the community. This “sharing authority” approach is at the heart of the project, whereby university researchers and community members join together in conversation. A true partnership between communities and universities exists when both parties share a common vision and when they have mutual understanding and respect....

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 321-336)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 337-340)
  13. Index
    (pp. 341-363)