Doing Memory of Violent Experience, Performative Approach

Tuesday, 17 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Natalie GEHRINGER, University of Augsburg, Germany
Rebecca GULOWSKI, University of Augsburg, Germany
As studies on conflict and war societies show, the way of dealing with violent experiences and trauma depends on the (in-)stability of social order and objective circumstances of living, besides one’s own psychological resilience. Especially with regard to violence and sexual violence, we argue that the institutions of conflict transformation a society provides (“help-system”) for dealing with these kind of issues, e.g. concrete assistance for the victims and persons who are affected, the police, social workers or the law, reveal that violent experiences and traumas have more than their individual dimension; rather they are tied to social and political conditions. Based on the analysis of the narrations of victims, perpetrators and representatives of institutions, this paper wants to shed light on the way how the relationship between institutions in the German “help-system” structures the interwoven dimensions of our experience and the doing memory processes of violent experiences. We particularly focus on the narrations of offenders and how they memorize and legitimate their actions and experiences. Methodologically, we want to discuss the approach of the “embodied knowledge” understood as the link between experience, social metaphors, narratives and political institutions and apply embodied methods (e.g. active listening, theatre and collage technique) of research on (sexualized) violence, in order to demonstrate that the “doing memory process” of violent experiences oscillates between speechlessness and a language-dependency and that the societal and political discourses are responsible for the self-positioning and integration of violent experience in the own biography. We want to give first answers to the question how an institutional setting should be arranged to offer an open space for people who have experienced violence (as victims and/or offenders) and to provide an opportunity to process their memories.