Nayanika Mookherjee is a Professor at the Department of Anthropology, Durham University. The overarching theme that connects her work concerns an ethnographic exploration of public memories of violent pasts and aesthetic practices of reparative futures. She has explored these processes in relation to gender-based violence in conflicts, war crimes, and transnational adoption.

The ‘Everyday’ of Sexual Violence in Conflict: Rethinking the Economic Contexts of Shame and Stigma

“This is an extract from my co-authored graphic novel Birangona: Towards Ethical Testimonies of Sexual Violence During Conflict’ [(2019); recipient of the 2019 Praxis award]. It draws from the ethnography in my book The Spectral Wound. Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971 (2015 Duke University Press). The graphic novel aims to introduce survivor-led guidelines to ethically document testimonies relating to sexual violence during conflicts and avoid exacerbating conditions of survivors. 

In Bangladesh women raped during the war of 1971 are referred to as birangonas (brave women), and this is how they exist in the public memory. Since the 1990s many of the narratives of the survivors have been recorded as part of oral history projects. However, as a result of these testimonial processes survivors have faced khota (scorn/stigma as elaborated in my JRAI article in 2006).

Instead of focussing on voyeuristic testimonies of sexual violence, our research examines post-conflict experiences and ‘fragments’ (pg. 10 and 11). This highlights the everyday socialities and continuums of violence among survivors and interrogates ‘trauma’. The everyday playfulness of fieldwork in post-conflict contexts is also highlighted (pg. 18). We show the socio-economic and politico-historical contexts of the invocation of stigma by communities and argue that shame cannot be understood homogeneously in all instances of sexual violence (pg. 16 and 21).”

GRAPHIC NOVEL: Mookherjee, Nayanika and Najmunnahar Keya. (2019) Birangona: Towards Ethical Testimonies of Sexual Violence during Conflict. Durham: University of Durham. [Online] Freely Available in Bangla and English.