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Targol Mesbah
"Of Spectres and Silences: The Rwandan Genocide and the Labor of Mourning"

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 2007
Translocalities/transmodernities: Panel Discussion, Geballe Room, Townsend Center

12:30 p.m. – 3 p.m. Polycentric sessions and screenings, San Francisco Art Institute, Lecture hall and classrooms
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This paper offers a reading of the The Silence, Gilles Peress' photographic documentation of the Rwandan genocide. I argue that the book's use of the figure of the "interval" as a way to represent the temporal logic of the traumatic event shifts emphasis away from a discourse of justice and rights towards the very process of representation. This argument draws on the
critical theoretical work of Jean Laplanche and Jacques Derrida to demonstrate how a psychoanalytic conception of traumatic time effectively ruptures the liberal narrative of moral progress that has characterized the discourse of human rights. I consider what Derrida has called a politico-logic of trauma and his conception of a topology of mourning to address the possibility of a different notion of justice outside the language of law and progress, towards the promise of a different future, hence a temporality that is not a modular extension of the present but one whose future alterity is informed by its relation to the past.

Participant's Bio:
Targol Mesbah teaches critical theory, postcolonial critique and Iranian cinema in the Interdisciplinary Humanities and Media Studies programs at New College in San Francisco. She received her B.A. in film studies from the University of California Irvine and her Ph.D. in history of consciousness at University of California Santa Cruz. She is presently engaged in turning her doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript entitled Why Does the Other Suffer? War, Trauma, and the Everyday. Her research interests include critiques of the normalizing effects of biopower; poststructuralist philosophy; psychoanalytic time; and the politics of difference.