DAAS Africa Workshop with Emilie Diouf (Brandeis University)
"And So They Say, Your Pain is Ours": The Flow of African Women Refugees' Stories in Global Human Rights"
With the best of intentions governmental and nongovernmental humanitarian advocacy groups assemble and collect stories of suffering in order to inform their claims for restoration. They collect trauma narratives for the purpose of supporting their interventions into nations and communities. But they also collect and disseminate these stories to acquire funding and political capital in order to promote their own institutional security even as they promote human dignity in their practices (James 2004). As a result of advocacy against HIV/AIDS, Female Genital Mutilation, and armed conflict in particular, African women’s stories of trauma have often been interpreted and showcased as evidence of extreme gender based abuses in the global rights discourse. How do we ethically empathize with the suffering of women across nations and cultures whose gendering processes are different and who are racialized, remains an exegetical question for both feminist and trauma studies as well as humanitarian work and policies. I suggest that cross-cultural solidarity can only happen if there is a willingness to ethically translate African women’s traumatic experiences. I argue that ethical translation of pain takes into consideration the intersubjective dimension of trauma narration and considers the cultural, social, and political locations of African women as well as the subjects who bear witness to their testimonies.
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