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Histories of Violence III: State of the Field

Fri, October 9, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Sheraton Centre, Chestnut West

Session Submission Type: Non-Paper Session: Dialogue Format

Abstract

In this roundtable, we bring together junior and established scholars working in the emergent subfield of histories of violence. We propose “histories of violence” as a useful methodology to interrogate the varied forms of violence that constitute Western liberal modernity, including structural forms of state power and imperial practices; subjective violence through raced, gendered, and sexualized hierarchies; and narrative violence that prevents histories and voices from emerging through the erasure of archives and narrative silencing. While scholars long have studied these processes, we strive for different methods of telling that resist the tendency to underscore the incipient moment of state-sanctioned violence and to conclude with its reconciliation.

With this roundtable discussion, we hope to extend and deepen ongoing discussions from past American Studies Association meetings and the Histories of Violence collective in order to broaden knowledge production about violence as a constitutive process of the modern world, a method for scholarly inquiry, and a transformative narrative force. Though our approach is deeply indebted to scholarship in trauma studies, we are interested in moving beyond witnessing and mourning to reckoning: a balancing of accounts, an effort to construct new historical narratives that re-center the bodies of those subject to state violence and that highlight the absence of those bodies in our current ways of telling.

“Histories of violence” is for us not a disciplinary marker but rather a gesture toward the ways that our potential futures are always indebted to our past struggles. In this sense, “histories of violence” is a rubric for a set of political ethics: in our move from witnessing and mourning to reckoning, we seek to identify alternate spaces for different politics and movements to emerge.

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