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Of Implicated Subjects and Beneficiaries: Collective Responsibility in the Face of Violence

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Organizer: Estibalitz Ezkerra Vegas

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The field of perpetrator studies has grown notably in the last years with the aim, on the one hand, to respond to the need to understand the motivations behind perpetrator actions without using that understanding to excuse or condone them and, on the other hand, to challenge the Manichaean binary rhetoric of good versus evil that characterized the second half of the 20th century. Nevertheless, perpetrator studies, in a similar vein to studies focused on the figure of the victim, have operated mostly within the paradigm of victim and perpetrator, where victimhood and perpetration are presented as antagonistic and mutually exclusive categories.

Recent work on cosmopolitanism and trauma studies, however, has begun to acknowledge the not-so-distinct boundaries that may exist between victim and perpetrator, as well as to question the seemingly innocent role of the bystander, particularly when looking at global phenomena such as climate change. Bruce Robbins’ The Beneficiary (2017) and Michael Rothberg’s The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators (2019), for example, address the collective responsibility of Western societies qua implicated subjects in and beneficiaries of histories of violence and contemporary political and economic systems that perpetuate inequality.

This seminar invites proposals that explore questions of implication, accountability, and responsibility in literature, film, and the arts. Papers following postcolonial, indigenous, ethnic studies, memory and trauma, and/or ecocritical approaches as well as those engaging with state sponsored violence and counter-violence are welcome. Possible paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

The limits of the victim / perpetrator paradigm

Victims turned perpetrators and vice versa

Implication as (a form of) perpetration

Implication, responsibility, and accountability

Personal / collective responsibility toward the past, the present, and the future

Internationalism and solidarity

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