|Trans||Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften||16. Nr.||Januar 2006|
2.2. Models of Victimization in Contemporary Cultures
Fatima Festic (Los Angeles)
The aim of the section was to bring together scholars whose interests are related to studies of the models of victimization that are in play today: motives, forms, techniques and consequences of the linguistic, cultural, social and political exclusion and annihilation. The focus was on the language, rhetoric and ideologies that fashion the meaning of victimization as well as on the contemporary appeal to the topic of victimization and on the literary and political manipulations with the real of the victimized for the sake of creating or maintaining the victimizers’ own discursive, sexual, gender, cultural, political or academic positions. The papers were presented in two subsections; one dealing with some broadly understood political and social developments, the other concentrating more on women’s issues in literary and social contexts.
The first subsection comprised five different topics: the one dealing with the sign- processing in representations of the Srebrenica cataclysm and the subsequent exhumations and the public, judicial and cultural responses to it, emphasising the joined powers of arts and societal undertakings as opposite to political/judicial abuses of the victimized (Fatima Festic), the second topic of the 21st century. politics in the media and a narrative consequence of the "war on terror"- the habit of the media to report killings by security forces describing victims as "suspected terrorists/rebels" that endorses the victimizers’ point of view (Matteo Stocchetti), the third examining the gap in the Israeli society between religious messianic extremists who seek to impose a radical fundamentalist order and the forces of pragmatism that strive for society’s progress by employing utilitarian considerations (Israel Idalovichi), the fourth discussing the concepts of literal and exemplary memory in relation with the construction of the Romanian historical and cultural identity, its auto-orientalism as self-victimization and a possibility of its transgression (Anca Baicoianu); the fifth analyzing the way in which victimization becomes the prevailing understanding of the American soldier’s experience in popular antiwar works of memoir and fiction from the Vietnam War, where the soldier is allowed to disown responsibility for the atrocities he has committed (Cynthia Wachtel).
The second subsection brought up the issues of the problematic imposition of ethnic categories and their ideological re-categorisations on minority communities in Singapore taking up Stanley Fish’s concept of "boutique multiculturalism" and focusing on autobiographical fiction by minority women writers who publish internationally (Tamara Wagner), then it explored how globalization and the empowerment myth has created models of victimization of women fashion-workers in Bangladesh - disempowerment, perpetuation of gender inequality, commodification of femininity and subjection to a "framework of intimidation" (Helal Mouhidin) and analysed the sociological construction of female children into the paradigmatic artistic vehicle for the male psychological portrait as reflected in the use of the "nymphet" figure in the Nabokov’s novel Lolita and Sem Mendes’ film American Beauty (Tracy Wendt-Lemaster).
The referential framework of presentations being very heterogeneous, the section has opened diverse issues, yet all have coincided in depicting the ideological constructedness of the victimization consciousness as well as the points of the crisis in the function of representation and limits to representation where the victim/victimizer positions get reversed.
Discussing the models of victimization, we were faced with different angles of looking at similar or the same problems determined by the difference between empirical and theoretical backgrounds; we pointed out the lack of self-representation and of testimonial narratives as what yields the grounds for victimizers’ cultural/political consolidation; the intricacies of discourses on identity politics and of literary autobiographies that at once demand and importantly assist in a much needed reassessment of the ideological ground works underpinning and exploiting different concepts of multiculturalism or multiracialism; the naturalization of role and practices involved in the use of organized violence; the self-victimizing tendency to perpetuate one’s victim status through further immersion in traumas and also a liberating potential of analogies and generalizations and of a critical dialogue; pragmatic philosophy as an "enlightening" tool; the falsity of autobiographical war victimization narratives that can reshape and distort the reality of wars; the third world women workers’ livelihood strives that impose adoption of self-victimizing survival strategies; the metaphorization of children’s innocence as disallowing them from having any actual referent and thus justifying their abuse in media representations as one’s "response" to "an inherency".
Thus accents on trauma, history, autobiography figured both as a powerful narrative and surviving tool and as an obstacle to critical distance or pragmatism; the contra-terror discourses were depicted also as naturalized terror-producing ones, the concepts of multiculturalism and multi-racialism as well as of globalisation as internally self-subversive, divided or multiplied, and of empowerment as simultaneously disempowering. Having the interaction of these inverse perspectives as its core, the section was challenging and productive and the presented papers themselves small testimonies of the interpretative and existential ambiguities and voids of our time.
© Fatima Festic (Los Angeles)
2.2. Models of Victimization in Contemporary Cultures
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