Listening at Uncanny Places: Forced Displacement and Torture as Silencing Processes

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Hermann Ruiz


This article assesses the implications of listening in the context of the commemoration of a massacre perpetrated in 2000 by paramilitaries in the Colombian Caribbean region Los Montes de María and the subsequent displacement of the survivors from their land. Forced displacement is understood as a process of silencing when it is compared with torture. In forced displacement, as in torture, suffering is inflicted upon the victims to erase their voice, their self, their world. Simultaneously, the voice of the torturer and his regime, his world, is imposed over the victim. While I use this comparison as a conceptual bridge, rather than an absolute equation of the two, I argue that what is at stake in both forced displacement and torture is the capacity to live, perpetuate and recreate a meaningful world. I propose, therefore, that doing justice in the context of forced displacement requires a project of an ethics for listening in which it is necessary to understand voice as an actualisation of a ‘life-world’. Listening implies, then, to remain open to learn from and be changed by the speaker. 

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Locating Memory (Peer Reviewed)