Storytelling & Testimony: Exploring Dimensions of Trauma and Shame
From ‘Agua de Vinagre’ to ‘Wake of Souls Immolated’ Suicides and the Post-Traumatic Living. Re-weaving the Living with Silences
Guadeloupe/Cape Verde, Suicides, Memory, Resolution, Art, Imaginaries, Grief/ving;
This two-headed panel is a four-voices proposal: those of the authors and those of their artistical proposal. It is an invitation to cross both the sensitive and the meaning, to operate a catharsis and an introspection-reflection on the question of suicides — individual and collective — as events structuring the individuals and the existences that inherit them. This panel is a multilateral, reciprocal and reflexive experience and conversation. From the sensitive to the sentient, from the cinematographic essay Agua de Vinagre to performance Wake of Souls Immolated, we will attempt to elucidate the place left by suicide(s) through the intermission of two analytical attempts: how do the ontological and memorial traumas pass through those who commit the irreparable as those who must unravel the breadcrumb trails towards a sensitive and political understanding of this act which interrupted the flow of existence? By mixing their voices and reflections — both survivors of kins and loved ones gone through suicides — we will commit an intercultural and intersemiotic experiment to grasp the trauma. There is implicitly the idea of the shroud shared between the ones who committed suicides and their survivors, as well as the idea of “resolution”, understood sometimes as the act of solving the trauma, sometimes as the determination to die, and to live. This long river of our imaginations is the sum of our interwoven languages on the crossbreeding loom.
Post-Traumatic Growth: An Artistic Exploration
Independent Scholar, UK
Understanding Trauma, Making Meaning, Mandalas, Healing remedies, Therapy, Trauma informed, Post-traumatic growth
The image above is my illustration of a brain in trauma. The text reads: ‘in that moment all the lights went out inside of me’. This is a direct, anonymised quotation from a counselling client I worked with a few years ago. She was trying hard to make sense of her feelings around a rape she had suffered. She was profoundly hurt and full of shame, and her struggle touched me deeply. Around that time, I had also just begun to understand (thanks to Dr. Van Der Kolk) that during trauma the prefrontal cortex area of the brain responsible for logical thought and rational decision making (painted darker in the image) goes offline. It struck me how salient my client’s words were, the lights went out. During the counselling sessions, I attempted to explain what I had started to learn myself about the brain and its protective responses in trauma. As my client stepped into a clinical understanding, realising that she her rational mind was not operational during the rape, her shame began to decrease.
I continued to explore clinical understandings of trauma drawing from advancements in psychology, neuroscience and counselling including the work of Peter Levine, Dr. Bessel Van Der Kolk, Kim Etherington, Gabor Mate, and Babette Rothschild amongst others. The image above is a starting point mandala of a wider artistic project inspired by twenty years’ practice as a therapist/clinical supervisor, particularly my work at a sexual assault unit in the UK. The project is an attempt to highlight common challenges left over from trauma (flashbacks, sleep-disturbances, chronic pain etc.) and illustrate bottom-up potential healing strategies including sensory grounding, meditations, herbal remedies, and botanicals. The aim is to present a resource, an understanding of trauma and hope for post-traumatic growth.
The presentation is an opportunity for me to communicate the inspiration from my clinical work and discuss my rationale of the creative process.
Tricksters as Healers: Trickster Tales as Trauma Response
Alicia K. Anderson
Pacifica Graduate Institute, USA
trickster, mythology, trauma, Anansi, Brer Rabbit, African diaspora, slavery
While studying the movement of stories from Africa into the African diaspora and African American folk storytelling, two figures are clearly prominent: the trickster figures of Anansi the spider from the Akan Ashanti traditions, and Brer (Brother) Rabbit, who seems to be a combination of Hare trickster stories from South, Central and East Africa. Broadly speaking, Anansi is more prevalent in the Caribbean, while Brer Rabbit stories are more common in the African American South. It is widely acknowledged that the popularity of these trickster figures is a response to the conditions of slavery and survival in a segregated and violent power dynamic. What I propose is that these figures – while they indeed grew into a form of revolutionary thought – that they began as a necessary response to the initial trauma of the kidnapping of people from their African homes. The trickster is not usually seen as a healing figure, or a figure useful in traumatic recovery. But these were inhumane and overwhelming traumas, and they required an unusual balm.
While trickster characters and motifs are seen as many things: release valves from structured society, comedic heroes, teaching figures, they are not usually associated with healing. Robert Pelton in The Trickster in West Africa reminds the reader that Ananse is at his core a trickster, and “the trickster is a symbol of the liminal state itself” (35). However, in cases of severe rupture from land, home, and social structure, the trickster stories can offer traumatized people the means to survive a psychologically untenable situation. This paper explores why Anansi and Brer Rabbit were the most frequently told stories among the African diaspora in response to slavery, and suggests an area of further study of how Iktomi, Raven, and Coyote help indigenous North Americans survive colonization.
Historians and Philosophers Debate Shame
Oxford Brookes University, UK
This paper is a dialogue with both liberalism in nineteenth century England and the ideas of Ute Freivert. The chapter notes that civilization’s crusade to remove shame from human interactions was something of a veil concealing the fact that liberalism required its own forms of coercion to enforce the benefits of modernity. Class, a product of modernity became a tool whereby individuals policed their own interactions and aspirations within a bourgeois world. The paper ends by speculating on the enduring usefulness of shame as a manipulative social tool that perhaps points to imperatives that so regularly refashion and reinvent it.
From Vulnerability to Empowerment. Shame and Identity in Thomas Melle’s “Die Welt im Rücken” and Mithu Sanyal’s “Identitti”
University of Bern, Switzerland
Shame, social exclusion, identity politics, racism, social media, autofictional novels
Thomas Melle’s Die Welt im Rücken (2016) and Mithu Sanyal’s Identitti (2021) are two autofictional novels in which shame and identity are inextricably intertwined. Both books can be read as poetic explorations of the various facets of shame in our contemporary society. “Man kann sich […] kaum ein schambesetzteres Leben vorstellen als das eines manisch-depressiven Menschen [One can hardly imagine a more shameful life than that of a manic-depressive]”, reads a sentence from Die Welt im Rücken, Thomas Melles’ harrowing account of his bipolar disorder. On the one hand, the protagonist’s shame is ignited by the nature of his illness: while he is completely disinhibited in the manic phases, desperate shame about his past actions and excesses arises with depression. On the other hand, however, his shame is also due to a society that increasingly excludes the sufferer and abandons him to the alienating apparatus of modern psychiatry. As his mental suffering progresses, the protagonist is degraded further and further into a mere object of reifying ICD diagnoses and bureaucratic incapacitation procedures. Melle’s relentless recording of his suffering appears as a way to reclaim dominion over his life story and to transform shame from an experience of utter helplessness into a source of empowerment. In Mithu Sanyal’s novel Identitti, the protagonist also experiences her own identity as shame-ridden. Growing up in Germany as the daughter of a Polish mother and an Indian father, Nivedita Anand suffers from the agonizing feeling of not belonging wholly to any of the three nations. The books of the charismatic Saraswati, an allegedly Indian-born professor of postcolonial theory, become an awakening experience for Nivedita and suddenly open up the possibility to feel pride in her multicultural origins instead of shame. But then it turns out that the admired teacher had falsely claimed to be of Indian origin and actually comes from a family of German dentists. Under the hashtag #SaraswatiShame, students of colour are outraged by the white professor’s deception. In the novel, social media become a “digitaler Pranger [digital pillory]” where individuals are publicly exposed and humiliated. Identitti impressively demonstrates how closely current debates about identity politics are related to the issue of shame. As with Thomas Melle, in Sanyal’s novel it is literature – reading as much as writing – that ultimately opens up a way to transform shame into a force of creativity and empathy with other marginalized, vulnerable people. Based on the two novels, I would like to discuss the following (and other) questions in a workshop: What do Die Welt im Rücken and Identitti tell us about the relationship between shame and identity in our modern society? In how far do the two novels demonstrate that shame is a highly political affect, often related to social ills such as racism, misogyny, or discrimination against the mentally ill? What role does social media play for the protagonists’ experience of shame? Is there a special affinity between the genre of autofiction and the thematization of shame?
Figuring Failure: Art, Agonism and the Representation of Receded Narratives and Identities of Post-Conflict Borderlands
Belfast School of Art, Ireland
This artist presentation will consider the importance of public spaces for agonistic political discourse and encounter in contested contexts – post-conflict landscapes in particular – and highlight the potential of durational collaborative art practice to contribute to the production of such spaces. Referencing a body of film-based artworks by the artist, the presentation will mostly focus on a project produced with a group of disaffected former Irish republican activists from the borderlands of Northern Ireland/Republic of Ireland. Broadly opposed to the 1998 Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, the film’s participants find themselves politically and personally isolated in a changed political landscape. The ideological views that once positioned them at the heart of political and community life now place them on the margins, sundered from their close-knit borderland constituencies. Themes of betrayal, loss of community and not belonging in post-peace-agreement Ireland weave their way through the film’s narrative. The participants are long removed from conflict; however, the impact remains many years later, pointing to the complexity of post-conflict life and the many issues left unaddressed in the aftermath of war. The project confronts questions of fundamental and contemporary immediacy in post-conflict Ireland. How might ideological belief, betrayal and failure be acknowledged? How do international agreements and transitioning from conflict create displacement, isolation and recede points of view? And how might marginalised identity and community be reconceived in contested contexts? Such questions are not specific to Ireland. They resonate with the world’s many societies transitioning from conflict. The next step for the project is to develop the theme in an international context, asking how to bring into figuration those volatile margins and occluded states of being indicative of the borderlands of post-conflict societies? Presenting at the Borders and Walls conference will hopefully spark discussion and so help develop and progress the project.
Memory, Remembering and Forgetting: Indian Residential Schools Abuse in Canada
University of Regina, Canada
Indigenous, testimony, public memory, historical, settler-colonialism, reconciliation, discourse, residential schools
This paper explores the concept of “public memory” as it relates to the Independent Assessment Process (IAP) – an out-of-court settlement process developed by state, Indigenous and religious bodies in Canada to provide compensations for serious physical and sexual abuses suffered by Indian residential school Survivors. In the IAP 38,000 Survivors of IRS came forward and over 26,000 gave testimony about the abuses they experienced as children in the state- and church-run schools. Based on the testimony and records the Survivors were compensated by the State. For some, the experience was healing; others were re-traumatized. Few of the testimonies will likely remain because Canada’s Supreme Court ruled to destroy the individual testimonies unless Survivors requested otherwise.
Our interdisciplinary study on the IAP – Reconciling Perspectives and Building Public Memory: Learning from the Independent Assessment Process – explores how institutions such as the media, government records, and the participants involved in the process constructed the story of the IAP. The national study involving Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and collaborators, included a discourse/content analysis of 14 years of media and 12 years of Hansard (elected official debates) and interviews with Survivors, support workers, lawyers, adjudicators and others involved in participating in the IAP. Within the context of a settler-colonial states, such as Canada, exploring the development and structure of public and historical memory, serves to illustrate the ongoing histories of IRS, including the more recent discovery of unmarked graves outside of the former school sites. Call #79 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, asks for Indigenous voices to be included in the heritage memories of Canada; thus, altering how events of the past are understood in the present.
The paper explores the construction of memory, and, remembering and forgetting, as relational subjects. It begins by asking how we navigate public memory in a settler-colonial state and whose voices are dominant? Answering this question highlights the importance of discourse and narrative in influencing our understanding and experience of events. Because memory frames how societies recall the past, we use the IAP – one of the largest class action law suits in the world (the IAP) to explore how the framing of memory is socially constructed, contested, and subject to change.
Shame and Ecological Activism
London Metropolitan University, UK
psychoanalysis, psychology, ecology, activism, moralism, therapy, affect, social change
In this paper I will explore where structures of shame sit in relation to ecological activism, both at the level of moralising judgements about ecological harm and in terms of a psychoanalysis and therapeutics of shame in relation to social change. When we feel moved to judgment about ecological harm we often begin from anxious feelings about control, which we might compensate for through fully-defended theoretical and ideological takes. Ecological activism can be full of a moralistic impulse to criticise and shame people for demonstrating insufficient proofs of care.
I will discuss how perspectives in psychoanalysis and psychology address the relationship between shame and inaction, what therapeutic practices suggest about flourishing, and look at arguments around creating social action at scale by focussing on these three ideas.
· Undoing shame
· Speaking out
· Readying for change
I’ll look at arguments from the following sources: Jeffrey Eaton on ego-destructive shame as an unbearably painful affect, and at how we might manage the ‘ominous transitions’ in our life which can lead to stasis and prevarication or towards flourishing if we are ethically held; Sally Weintrobe’s work on neoliberalism’s culture of exceptionalism and uncare, and on ethical action in the context of climate emergency; Andy Fisher’s work on ecopsychology and his framework for a naturalistic psychology, the neuroanatomical work of Jaak Panksepp on the role of affect in our lives; the clinical psychological practice of Bruno Cayoun and Alice Shires and their framework for mindfulness around care, and finally, Anthony Costello’s work on sympathy groups and his argument about organising for change.
The Ethics of Storytelling and the War on Terror: Trauma and/or Moral Injury?
Sapienza University of Rome and University of Silesia in Katowice, Italy
storytelling, trauma, moral injury, war narratives, narrative ethics, fiction, American literature, Middle East
Although some critics have lamented the absence of an era-defining book of the War on Terror, twenty years of American military operations in the Middle East have produced a considerable number of narratives that have attempted to portray the experience of war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. One of the most prolific categories has been, unsurprisingly, that of American veterans who, however, occupy a complex position – as subjects directly implicated in the events – that needs to be carefully examined.
According to Hanna Meretoja’s concept of hermeneutic narrative ethics, storytelling has the power to shape reality, and storytellers “should reflect on the intersubjective implications of [their] storytelling activities”. This paper proposes an analysis of the ethical position of veteran writers who narrate the War on Terror, with a focus on those who do so using narrative fiction. I do so for two reasons: as stated before, these writers have voluntarily participated in the events but, as writers of fiction, they are not bound by the traditional truth-requirements of nonfiction genres (memoir, autobiography).
Patrick Deer and Roy Scranton have noted an overreliance on the trauma trope as the default mode of interpretation of these stories, which frames the American protagonist as the traumatized victim with which the readers can empathize. As such, veteran narratives – popular items on the trauma-hungry literary market – have generally been received either as positive attempts at depicting truthfully the horrors of the war as experienced by American soldiers or as solipsistic texts that erase the suffering of the local population. I argue that, as trauma subjects who are granted nearly unquestionable authority while being instruments of imperialist violence, veterans run the risk of erasing the question of who should bear the political and ethical responsibility for the war, unless they present morally injured protagonists – who committed acts that transgress their core beliefs – or embrace the perspective of the Other.
The Touristification of GDR Memorialization
Christopher S. Wilson & Gül Kaçmaz Erk
Ringling College of Art + Design, USA, and Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland
Following the end of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1990, a series of buildings and spaces developed that memorialized and also touristified that Socialist state. This presentation will focus on three of them, the Stasi Museum, Palace of Tears and DDR Museum, all located in Berlin, to discuss the relationship between memorialization and touristification. The Stasi, or GDR secret police, was headquartered at Normannenstrasse 20. In January 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall and before the reunification, civil rights activists occupied the building securing its contents. One month after German reunification, the headquarters opened as the Stasi Museum. The Palace of Tears is an appendage onto Friedrichstrasse Train Station built to process West Germans visiting East Berlin. This building was the final place that Easterners would see their guests before crossing back into West Berlin. Historically protected since 2003, the building contains a permanent exhibition entitled “Palace of Tears: Site of German Division,” narrating the years 1961- 1989. The DDR Museum is a for-profit organization that documents everyday life in East Germany through a database of 200,000 household objects, furnishings, food packaging, sound recordings and scale models. Opened in 2006, the centerpiece of the museum is a replica of a typical GDR apartment complete with working vintage television and telephone. The authors argue that the Stasi Museum and the Palace of Tears succeed as memorials because of their authentic “spectral space” and “haunted geography” characteristics. The DDR Museum is not an authentic site but does contains actual artefacts displayed inside an authentic replica. While all three institutions keep the memory of East Germany alive, they also simultaneously touristify the GDR’s system of power based on force, threats, rewards and privilege. The trauma inflicted on East Germans is put on display and exhibited for the tourist gaze.
Understanding the Saturday Mothers Movement
Ulster University, Ireland
Kurdish conflict, Saturday Mothers, organised victims, survivor groups, activist groups, activists, dealing with the past, transitional justice, intergenerational trauma
This paper focuses on the Saturday Mothers movement to understand how organised victims of Turkey’s Kurdish conflict built one of the longest-lasting social movements in Turkey. Turkey has never adopted an official, overarching transitional justice (TJ) agenda to deal with past the past. However, grassroots actors used the TJ discourse in their pursuit of truth, justice and accountability. Being one of those actors, Saturday Mothers have been mobilising since 1995 to demand truth, justice and accountability for enforced disappearances. I explore how the Saturday Mothers movement has been built by examining its evolution and expansion, the tools and strategies used, and its contributions to the pillars of transitional justice. I analyse the Saturday Mothers movement’s unique characteristics and explored how organised victims mobilised around the demands for truth, justice and accountability for enforced disappearances in Turkey. Having made sense of their victimisation in political terms, the relatives of the disappeared have been the most systematically organised victim group in Turkey. Saturday Mothers created a public space through which the notions of truth, justice, memory, and accountability have gained visibility and support from a variety of actors. Most importantly, they created awareness on one of the most severe and systematic human rights abuses; the issue of enforced disappearances. Through a persistent struggle that has been expanding towards a broader network since 1995, Saturday Mothers worked towards a country where enforced disappearances do not happen again, and the perpetrators are prosecuted. The Saturday Mothers movement is also an inspirational example of how organised victim groups mobilise the demands for truth, justice, and accountability and contribute to transitional justice goals. Although there is no official willingness by the state towards TJ currently, Saturday Mothers should hold a central place in designing and implementing TJ measures when the political opportunity arises. The theoretical arguments I make in this paper are based on my interviews with Saturday Mothers activists.
Testimonies of Domestic Abuse: Where Do We Allow Truth to Shine Through?
Carrie McManus and Andrea Silverstone
Domestic Abuse, Testimonies of Trauma, Silencing, Coercive Control, Feminist Practice, Empowerment, Curating Environments, Empathy, Truth, Shame
The domestic abuse sector in North America has established itself over the past 40 years as an important component for supporting victims of abuse. But what about all those who experience abuse and don’t fall within the pre-defined population that can be supported and serviced through women’s shelters? What happens if we break ranks and recognizing that sometimes women are the people who use abuse and coercive control? Within the domestic violence sector there are strict, unspoken guidelines about what testimonies are valid and valuable to the sector, and what ones never see the light of day.
What happens, when someone from within the sector starts to explore producing testimonials and speaking truths and trauma that fall outside of the accepted script of domestic abuse. Through this presentation Sagesse will explore what it has been like to elevate testimonies that fall outside of the accepted norm of complex social issues. We will share our experiences of deconstructing the common testimonies that are used to explore trauma, abuse and reclamation. This workshop will provide an opportunity to delve into the challenges and success that we have encountered through our own process of curating and engaging in testimonial production across the complexity that is the issues of domestic abuse, coercive control and sexual exploitation. We hope to engage activities that provide opportunities for learning for conference attendees and ourselves around methods and mechanisms for producing testimonials with a lens for reclamation, empowerment and validation.
From Agony to Enlightenment: The Use of Creative Practice Led Research to Examine the Generative Capacity of Shame
University of Canberra, Australia
Shame, creative practice led research, literature studies, affect studies, creative writing, generative possibilities and capacities of shame
Shame is powerful, deleterious and alienating experience that may leave an individual both physically and psychically debilitated. However, cultural taboos and silences around this emotion in contemporary Western cultures have manifested in a reluctance to speak of shame. Yet despite shame’s torturous and destructive nature, which provokes a “deep psychic emotional disturbance” (Probyn et al, 2019, p325) in individuals, shame may also prompt a “profound reflection on the self” (Probyn et al, 2019, p325) which in turn may prove productive if this emotion is engaged with fully. As Elspeth Probyn adds, “through feeling shame, the body inaugurates an alternative way of being in the world” (2005, p55-56). Yet how may this generative capacity of shame be effectively harnessed, particularly given Western cultural silences around shame? Often dealing with “messy” subject areas, creative practice led research may offer insight into shame’s potential capacities, with this methodological approach allowing for the exploration of uncertainties and a new “space for thinking” (Webb, 2015, p125). Sally Munt writes that “in order to transcend shame, we have first to enter it and know its deleterious effects” (Munt, 2007, p90) and creative practice led research may allow for this process to occur. Given that creative works can be understood as taking place through emotion and through the body (Cameron, 2016, p223), and that shame is an embodied emotion, creative practice led research may thus allow for greater insights into the generative potential of shame. These capacities are explored via a creative practice led research project that culminated in the writing of a novel, Turned from View.
Portrait of a Woman: Leopoldo Savignac and Basque Photography in the First Half of the 20th Century: An Autoethnographic Investigation
University of Plymouth, UK
Spanish Civil War, Photography, Memory, Life Writing, Immigration, Autoethnography, Archives
At my mothers death I inherited photographs and letters which pointed to an interesting family history and I discovered that my grandfather, Leopoldo Savignac, had been a photographer in the Basque area of Spain. At the works centre are the memories of life in Basque Spain in the 1930s embedded in particular stories passed down to me by my mother. There is a potential detective story here as my mother is invisible in this history because she is illegitimate. There is a prize-winning photograph of my grandfather’s published in a Basque photographic magazine in 1921 which contains an image of a woman who bears a striking resemblance to my grandmother, who is also invisible in this history as a mistress of the photographer Savignac. Taking this image as a starting point I explore the gaps in the life story, evoking the journey to discover more about my grandfather as a way to explore different narratives at stake. The paper will be a reflection on practice as research and how to theorise methods of making photographic work in response to what I discover, as well as how photographs are taken, made, preserved, archived and written about in different ways (phenomenological, haptic, embodied). Aspects of bringing my writing and image making together will include an imagined conversation, incorporating invisible and unknowable connections between images, archive and text. To go to the archive and study the documents there is to be complicit in the ways in which the information is organized and what it represents. But what is not there is just as interesting… the undocumented women in my family and the extent to which they remain invisible within the historical archival research, as well as the scattered and fragmented status of my grandfather’s photographic practice echoing his own immigrant status.
Compliance and Insight: Art and the Unspooling of Experience in Contested Institutional Contexts
Belfast School of Art, Ireland
Art, Collaborative, Relational, Institution, Forensic, Hospital, Mental Health, Contested Contexts, Ireland, Parrhesia
This artist presentation will detail the potential of collaborative art practice to produce proto-public spaces of parrhesiastic discourse within closed or ‘total’ institutional settings. In January 2020, the artist began an art research residency with service users at the National Forensic Mental Health Hospital, Ireland. The goal of the residency was to work with service users to examine the tension between compliance with required treatment plans and potential insight. This was achieved by creating a critical studio space where the service users are prioritised as experts and their experience is registered and given form through the artworks. The engagement paralleled the COVID pandemic and moved from in-person workshops to online. The resulting artwork included the production of four signet rings, two films, a neon-cigarette sculpture and two tabloid newspapers, one of which consisted of drawings of medications and the other of meals. The artworks provided the missing stories of rupture and a process of reflection and figuration around institutional experience. The residency disrupted typical expectations of knowledge production and dissemination in institutional settings and provoked productive discussions through exhibition and dissemination. In addition to detailing the relational production and dissemination process of the artworks, the presentation will argue for the importance and democratic potential of the discipline of art in contested settings. Art, as a process of joint and purposeful enquiry, cannot be instrumentalised in the service of health or other concerns.
Enacting Shame in the Hebrew Bible
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
Hebrew Bible, Old Testament, shame, repentance, humiliation, ritual, ancient Near East, history of emotions
This essay will turn to the Hebrew Bible as an archive for shame discourse from an ancient world that pre-existed the dominant trend toward Cartesian dualism in the modern West. Here shame appears as an embodied, even visible state that is enacted upon the body of a sufferer, sometimes by the sufferer herself. It is envisioned as existing not in the negative evaluations of others, or in one’s thoughts or fears about them, but in objective bodily conditions. Shame, or humiliation, moves beyond subjective states as a weaponized tool, whether applied against individuals, kings, or nations, to embed its recipients in new power relations. Nevertheless, once traced as a state of material existence, shame can also be constituted as subject to removal through the force of externalized powers. Too often, based on contemporary uses of shame, especially as a practice of the self and self-regulation, biblical interpreters have misconstrued “shame” in the Hebrew Bible as a spiritualized or pious state of self-criticism. I argue that there is no place for such “repentance” in the Hebrew Bible, that shame is only a state of degradation, imposed by others. As such, the Hebrew Bible also becomes a resource for envisioning a form of shame that does not stick to our subjective psyches but is rather the subject of external, material, systemic forces and therefore susceptible to change. Toward this aim, I will consider the cases of Tamar, after her sexual violation at the hands of Amnon, and Hannah, who is taunted for her childlessness; Ahab’s practices of royal humiliation, and the state of the diasporic nation in the book of Ezekiel.
Shame and Feminine Experience
University of Lyon 2, France
feminine shame, intimate experiences, French modern literature, autobiography, Annie Ernaux, Christne Angot, Vanessa Springora, feminism
In today’s world of women’s literature, we are constantly faced with autobiographical writings representing their intimate experiences such as clandestine abortions, sexual violence, or incest. These texts evidence the current engagement of writers to unveil the feminine experiences surrounded by shame. These memories, imprisoned by judgmental sights, condemn the individual to a suffocating silence. Hence, considering the feminine autobiography as a solution to break the silence could be hazardous since all the woven threads protecting the victim from the shame are unravelled in front of a large public. The author dealt with the shame by avoiding it for years, so this exposure could arouse a deep feeling of shame. However, as women usually remain silent, they neglect the common aspect of these feminine experiences. As a result, society disregards women all over the world’s secret, private and hidden daily pain experiences. Once writers narrate these episodes of their lives, the shame finds its way to be expressed and to be heard. The trembling voice reaches out to the other similar yet silent voices. In fact, through sisterhood, women confront the feminine shame and bring about a revolutionary change in society. This expression of shame could reverse its burden towards the ones who imposed it on women in the first place. In this research, I will go through French modern literature by investigating the autobiographical works of Annie Ernaux, Christine Angot, and Vanessa Springora over the last three decades. I will highlight their declarations of feminine shame through a narrative analysis in a phenomenological and feminist framework. My interest in this paper is to consider how these feminine autobiographical publications could generate a considerable awareness in the society, despite the shame that could be aroused, and to shed light on how women’s experiences in their phenomenological eminence become a social subject.