Symbolic Exits from Trauma? War Crimes Tribunals, Sexual Violence and Juridical Performances of Healing

Diana Anders

Abstract

My paper critically engages the ad hoc tribunals of Yugoslavia and Rwanda’s adjudication of sexual violence, using Shoshana Felman’s account of “historic trials” as a point of departure. Felman claims that post-atrocity trials can function as new paradigms of justice that go far beyond meting out punishment; they also perform what she characterizes as “symbolic exit[s] from the injuries of traumatic history.”1 By way of close readings of trial judgments, I consider the ways in which gender and trauma are figured in particular landmark cases. I argue that, rather than providing a stage upon which catharsis can be attained by collective and individual victims, the trails can at times occassion their own forms of symbolic gendered violence.

 

1. Felman, Shoshana. The Juridical Unconscious, New York: Routledge, 2002.

 

 

Keywords

justice, trauma, testimony, trials, gender, sexual violence, catharsis, symbolization

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