The invisibilization of political violence, its material traces and spatial manifestations, characterize (post)conflict situations. Yet, counter-semantics and dissonant narratives that challenge this invisibility have been articulated by artists, writers and human rights activists that increasingly seek to contest the related historical amnesia. Adopting “performance” as a concept that is defined by repetitive, aesthetic practices, such as speech and bodily habits through which both individual and collective identities are constructed and perceived (Slyomovics), the conference seeks to address the various forms of performing human rights in transitional situations both in Latin America and the Middle East. The conference and subsequent edited volume aims to bring into dialogue research that addresses these omissions and neglects and the respective alternate strategies of the cultural production and institutional spaces that have intervened in the processes of historical justice and collective memory.
At the center is thus placed the relationship between cultural production (literature, art, film, theater, performance, architecture) and transitional justice as a critical framework that has shaped the conviction to attend to the past in order to progress into a future, in which the past has been narrated, documented and judged. The concept of transitional justice stipulates the rights of victims, and of civil society more generally, in terms of non-judicial mechanisms for the reconstruction of truth and to guarantee the right to memory. Continuous eruptions of political violence are symptoms of a social antagonism that has not found a means of symbolic or judicial expression and thus prevails as violent conflict. These residues and latencies are present today in memory cultures and may be disclosed by literature and artistic practices by responding to symbolization, plural and dissonant narratives enabling a public sphere. Attending to the recent rise of the forensic turn that has reframed the performance of remains and necro-aesthetics, both in the human sciences and legal discourse, the conference aims to reflect on the emergent bodily practices and testimonial re-telling within a larger symbolic and social context to gauge the cultural impact of violence. The forensic, that is, to make something public, and its different materialities and sites have become the testing ground of historical justice. Cultural production and other aesthetic practices respond to this by acknowledging the political and symbolic power of related emergent materialities, such as exhumation sites and mourning rituals.
The conference seeks to bring into dialogue two regions, Latin America and the Middle East, that have experienced, though differently, in a complex and unresolved way situations of transition from a violent past to a contested present. Finally, it aims to stimulate a conversation of various disciplinary perspectives and knowledges (anthropology, literary and art theory, film studies, performance studies, cultural history, legal studies) bringing together academic scholars with artists, writers and curators.