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Department of Anthropology

The Spectral Wound

The Spectral Wound. Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971. (2015, N.C.: Durham. Duke University Press; 2016, New Delhi: Zubaan)

https://www.dukeupress.edu/the-spectral-wound

http://zubaanbooks.com/shop/the-spectral-wound/

Description

Following the 1971 Bangladesh War, the Bangladesh government publicly designated the thousands of women raped by the Pakistani military and their local collaborators as birangonas, ("brave women”). Nayanika Mookherjee demonstrates that while this celebration of birangonas as heroes keeps them in the public memory, they exist in the public consciousness as what Mookherjee calls a spectral wound. Dominant representations of birangonas as dehumanized victims with disheveled hair, a vacant look, and rejected by their communities create this wound, the effects of which flatten the diversity of their experiences through which birangonas have lived with the violence of wartime rape. In critically examining the pervasiveness of the birangona construction, Mookherjee opens the possibility for a more politico-economic, ethical, and nuanced inquiry into the sexuality of war. Here are a few chosen reviews of the book:

  • Acutely aware of the methodological and ethical quandaries of attempts to recover or give voice to survivors, Mookherjee offers instead ethnographic accounts of her birangona interlocutors’ everyday worlds as she encountered them. She juxtaposes these to a reading of testimonial cultures that have developed around the figure of the birangona; critical analysis of visual and literary representations; and conversations with a range of activists, including those responsible for “rehabilitating” so-called war-affected women and girls. This is multi-sited ethnography at its best. – Dina Siddiqi, International Feminist Journal of Politics.
  • "[Mookherjee] asks, ‘What would it mean for the politics of identifying wartime rape if we were to highlight how the raped woman folds the experience of sexual violence into her daily socialities, rather than identifying her as a horrific wound?’ That is the central question of this powerful and perceptive book." — Michael Lambek, Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute'
  • "The Spectral Wound is an exceptional book. It has thoroughly explored its subject from every conceivable angle in such a way as to give it a real intellectual richness." — Nardina Kaur, Economic & Political Weekly
  • "It is a pleasure to review books that offer an innovative reading of important areas of recent scholarship. Nayanika Mookherjee’s book throws an epistemic challenge to previous authors and interpretations on the subject." — Rachana Chakraborty, Social History
  • "Mookerjee's exemplary and closely argued The Spectral Wound highlights the central conundrum of making wartime rapes public: heroism, implied and acknowledged by the designation birangona, can only be acquired by making your shame public....[An] uncommonly complex and delicately observed study..." — Ritu Menon, Women's Review of Books
  • British Poet Steven Fowler’s reflection on the panel on the book at the Dhaka Literary Festival, November 2016 http://www.stevenjfowler.com/blog/2016/11/21/a-bangladesh-diary-part-two-dhaka-lit-fest

    I spent much of the day from then on seeking out primarily Bangladeshi themed events. I witnessed a panel about the campaign of rape by the Pakistani army during the Bangladeshi liberation war of 1971 which featured Nayanika Mookherjee, Firdous Azim, Shireen Huq and Sadaf Saaz. The event was about the victims of this campaign and their status as Birangona, or war heroes. Considering the topic, I have not been to more engaged, balanced, intelligent and insightful panel discussion in sometime, the true brutal tragedy of the events of 1971 were revealed with real expertise and positive disagreement, and it was an education for me. One of many events I went to about Bangladeshi history, politics and culture, and this was an ongoing process of education that I tried to constantly engage with when they were in English and not Bangla.

Funded by the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (New York), my book: Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memory and the Bangladesh War of 1971 [Duke University Press, (2015); Zubaan (2016) with a foreword by Prof. Veena Das and endorsements by Prof. Afsan Chowdhury, Prof. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Prof. Jonathan Spencer] is the first ethnographic account of circulation of public memories (including women survivors of this violent encounter) and the varied social lives of the testimonies of sexual violence of the Bangladesh War of 1971. It includes a triangulation of oral accounts (testimonies, interviews, observation), visual, archival and literary representation of the raped woman (films, photographs, advertisements, poetry, novels) as well as commemorative practices (of human rights activists and state authorities). The book has been shortlisted for awards, generating interviews on Radio 4 along with various academic and media reviews (please see below). I am authoring an impact case study in collaboration with the Government of Bangladesh and the End Sexual Violence in Conflict team of the Foreign and Commonwealth office (please see below for further details). I was also awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman (one of 30 awards, celebrating the Achievement of Global Indians), at the House of Lords, in October 2014 for my contribution to scholarship on gendered violence during wars and social anthropology.

Resources


Book Launch events: 2015-2017

Anthropology, Stanford University (November 2015) http://events.stanford.edu/events/542/54297/

AAA Executive Panel, Denver, Colorado (November 2015) https://aaa.confex.com/aaa/2015/webprogrampreliminary/Session13276.html

Centre for the Study of Social Sciences, Kolkata, India (December 2015)

Drik Visual Archives, Dhaka, Bangladesh (January 2016)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1r5tEQHSxSo

BRAC University, Anthropoligy, Bangladesh (January 2016)

Jahangirnagar University, Anthropology Department, Bangladesh (January 2016)

JU 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVcmFDUrQZY

JU 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9jPupSGKBc

JU 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YpBrg9IvDRw

JU 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYnesWzxWQw

JU 5 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MK7Qcz1_Yj0

Calcutta Research Group, Kolkata, India (January 2016)

Appeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (January 2016)

http://www.kolkatalitfest.in/event_images_2016/pdf/Event%20_%20%20Casualties%20as%20collateral%20damage%20_VM_%2015%2001%2016%20Final.pdf

http://www.kolkatalitfest.in/event_images_2016/pdf/Event%20_Love%20for%20Sale_17%2001%2016%20Final.pdf

http://www.aklf.in/delegates-2016.htm

NYU, Anthropology department (February 2016)

Johns Hopkins University, Anthropology (February 2016)

ASA Conference, Durham University (July 2016)

Lisbon, Bangladesh Studies Network (May 2016)

Copenhagen, (September 2016)

LSE, Centre for Women, Peace and Security (October 2016) – an interdisciplinary, inter-institutional initiative.

http://www.lse.ac.uk/WomenPeaceSecurity/events/2016/spectralWound.aspx

Brick Lane Study Circle, Sussex University (November 2016)

Readings from The Spectral Wound. Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971

Dhaka Literary Festival (November 2016)

http://www.dhakatribune.com/magazine/arts-letters/2016/10/15/a-glimpse-at-the-authors-appearing-in-dlf-2016/

http://www.dhakatribune.com/feature/2016/11/18/34362/

British Poet Steven Fowler’s reflection on the panel on the book

http://www.stevenjfowler.com/blog/2016/11/21/a-bangladesh-diary-part-two-dhaka-lit-fest

I spent much of the day from then on seeking out primarily Bangladeshi themed events. I witnessed a panel about the campaign of rape by the Pakistani army during the Bangladeshi liberation war of 1971 which featured Nayanika Mookherjee, Firdous Azim, Shireen Huq and Sadaf Saaz. The event was about the victims of this campaign and their status as Birangona, or war heroes. Considering the topic, I have not been to more engaged, balanced, intelligent and insightful panel discussion in sometime, the true brutal tragedy of the events of 1971 were revealed with real expertise and positive disagreement, and it was an education for me. One of many events I went to about Bangladeshi history, politics and culture, and this was an ongoing process of education that I tried to constantly engage with when they were in English and not Bangla.

Durham University, Anthropology (December 2016: Keynotes by Profs. Chris Pinney and Veena Das)

https://cvacdurham.wordpress.com/2017/02/20/an-interdisciplinary-workshop-on-violence-and-knowledge-of-the-senses-in-engagement-with-the-spectral-wound/

Oxford University (May 2017)


Media Engagement, Honours and Awards

2014. Awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman (one of 30 awards, celebrating the Achievement of Global Indians), House of Lords, London, 9th October 2014.

https://www.dur.ac.uk/anthropology/aboutus/news/?itemno=22456

https://www.dur.ac.uk/vice.chancellor/local/bulletin/archive/?itemno=22355

https://www.dur.ac.uk/anthropology/aboutus/news/archive/

2014. Invited as a delegate and expert to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in London from 10-13th June which was co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy and actor Angelina Jolie. (https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/sexual-violence-in-conflict) This has enabled wider dissemination of the work and I have been invited to be a consultant on the government’s policies on End sexual violence during conflict.

2015. Spectral Wound Shortlisted among the first three places of the BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed’s Best Ethnography Award. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075qjl5 (the book is discussed from 16-24 mins)

2016. Interview on the book by Laurie Taylor, BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b087rky1 (Interview: BBC Radio 4, Thinking Allowed, from 14 mins)

2016. Acknowledged in BBC 1’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ as the book was extensively consulted for research for the Programme.


Spectral Wound: Academic and Media Reviews and Interviews

ACADEMIC REVIEWS

Somatosphere Book Forum: http://somatosphere.net/2017/02/book-forum-nayanika-mookherjee-the-spectral-wound.html

Seven essays commenting on the book in this online journal including a new contribution by Prof Veena Das and a new reply by Nayanika Mookherjee

Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute, 2016: Review by Prof. Michael Lambek. Volume 22, Issue 4: 1001-1002. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-9655.12517/full

Economic and Political Weekly, Review by Nardina Kaur - http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/34/book-reviews/bangla-rape-victims-1971.html#disqus_thread

International Feminist Journal of Politics, (Review by Dina Siddiqi) Pages 126-128 | Published online: 04 Jan 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14616742.2016.1257337

Also in Fragments Magazine http://fragmentsmagazine.com/2016/10/16/silenced-histories/

Women's Review of Books 2016. Reviewed by Ritu Menon. Scar Tissue The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories, and the Bangladesh War of . http://www.wcwonline.org/WRB-Issues/womens-review-of-books-2016

Economic and Political Weekly, Reviewed by Naeem Mohaimen. http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/7/book-reviews/time-writing-hour-reading.html

South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Review by Seuty Sabur. Volume 39, Issue 3, July 2016. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00856401.2016.1207291?journalCode=csas20

Social History 41:3, 343-344, 2016. Review by Rachana Chakraborty DOI: 10.1080/03071022.2016.1175123 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03071022.2016.1175123

MEDIA REVIEWS AND INTERVIEWS

Interview on the book on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed by Laurie Taylor http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075qjl5 (from 14 minutes).

Among the top 2 shortlists of BBC Radio 4's Thinking Allowed BBC/BSA Best Ethnography Award http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b075qjl5 (the book is discussed from 16-24 mins)

Also see this panel discussion http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/201603081426-0025168

DU event http://www.du.ac.bd/latest_news/single_news/832

71 TV interview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptNuiSV6_tY

Interview as part of war commemoration events for 16th Dec 2016 in The Dhaka Tribune and in The Daily Star

online version: http://www.thedailystar.net/supplements/victory-day-2016-special/the-birangona-beyond-her-wound-1330312

on print here: http://epaper.thedailystar.net/index.php?opt=view&page=45&date=2016-12-16

http://www.dhakatribune.com/magazine/arts-letters/2016/11/11/rethinking-the-birangona/

http://www.thedailystar.net/star-weekend/long-form/history-and-the-birangona-1380280 (March 2017)


Impact Case Study

Currently, funded by the ESRC Impact Fund I am authoring an Impact Case study and conducting impact workshops with the government of Bangladesh, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh, Centre for Women, Peace and Security, LSE and End Sexual Violence in Conflict Team of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to co-produce guidelines based on my ethnography.

https://www.dur.ac.uk/esrciaa/test/researchingtogether/violenceguidelines/

Add LSE ICS and video – to send later

The book has generated the following public media events:

a) being awarded the Mahatma Gandhi Pravasi Samman (one of 30 awards, celebrating the Achievement of Global Indians), House of Lords, in October 2014 for my contribution to scholarship on gendered violence during wars and social anthropology.

b) In June 2014, I was invited as a delegate and expert to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict held in London which was co-chaired by UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and UN Special Envoy and actor Angelina Jolie. This has enabled wider dissemination of the work and I have been invited to be a consultant on the government’s policies on End sexual violence during conflict.

c) In 2009 and 2011, I was invited to present my work on the Bangladesh war crimes at seminars in the House of Lords and Commons.

d) I was also invited to organise an executive panel at the AAA Discussions are also underway to organise an AAA 2015 Executive Panel/Roundtable discussion on Sexual Violence in the everyday and during conflicts in response to my research.

e) Above all, my research has been used by Drishtipat - an activist network seeking redressal and compensation for thirteen war-affected women. The fundraising was completed April 30th, 2004 (http://www.drishtipat.org/1971/updates.htm) and the total fund collected was $15000 after expenses.

f) My research has also directly influenced and changed the script of a play staged by the theatre group [Komola Collective] in UK (2013-2014) and Bangladesh on the women raped during the Bangladesh war.. We have had further discussions about staging a collaborative play based on my research on war babies and transnational adoption.