Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines two projects that work to support relatives in their demand for justice after enforced disappearances in Mexico: the Huellas de la Memoria/Footprints of Memory project begun by Alfredo López, and Forensic Architecture’s Cartography of Violence, an interactive platform detailing the enforced disappearance of forty-three Ayotzinapa students. The two projects are very different, but both use and transform traces of disappearance to demand justice and both involve slow and painstaking work. One traces the footprints of relatives searching for missing people, and the other the traces in phone records, witness accounts and official reports of the abduction of the Ayotzinapa students.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines Patricio Guzmán’s film Nostalgia for the Light, which is set in the Atacama Desert in Chile. The film juxtaposes the search of astronomers for the origins of the universe and that of archaeologists for the remnants of humans who passed through the desert – as well as the women who comb the desert floor for the remains of their disappeared relatives. The chapter argues that Guzmán’s film can be seen as an example of what Jacques Rancière calls the politics of aesthetics, and induces new ways of seeing.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

This chapter is inspired by Frantz Fanon’s autobiographical account in Black Skin, White Masks of how the racist gaze makes him an object surrounded by other objects. Its narrative charts the author’s intellectual move from an attempt to fathom the world and how it works to an advocacy of what Fanon sees as an everyday openness to each other. In recounting how the family photograph as object survives the living body, and telling of the search for a missing family member in the archives, it traces the interweaving of life and thought over time. It is underpinned by an anger at objectification, and reveals how the unknown has an impact on what and who we think we know.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter reflects on the work of memory scholars. Inspired by a reading of Chris Marker’s film La Jétee, it explores concepts of time. La Jétee offers contrasting fantasies of the future, whilst also offering glimpses of a time that builds itself around us. The chapter shows that, despite the way Marker’s film complicates notions of a linear temporality and a better future, those notions return to haunt much scholarship on memory. I draw on Eric Santner’s notion of an escape – not from the everyday, but into the everyday – and ask whether such an escape is countenanced in the academic world.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

This chapter takes the form of a narrative, auto-ethnographic or autobiographical account. In the period between 2002 and 2009, the author had made several visits to New York, and to Manhattan in particular, to the site of Ground Zero, in an attempt to understand the response of New Yorkers to the collapse of the twin towers. She was grappling with the idea of trauma time – the time of openness after an event that throws into doubt what seemed to have been certain – and its political implications. The visit recounted in this chapter took place after a gap of five years, and proved to be a turning point for the author, challenging what she had thought her work was about.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines the argument that we need to traverse the fantasy that we are outside the world and can control and change it, and give up on the search for certainty and security. The chapter proposes that traversing the fantasy of separation and control, and giving up on the security and comfort of imaginary wholeness, is not impossible, as many argue; rather, certainty and security always prove illusory. The chapter notes the thread connecting the author’s earlier work and introduces the way the book will explore these issues through autobiographical narrative accounts, studies of drama and film, and critical analyses of practical political action. It ends by pointing out how abandoning the search for certainty leads to a different pedagogy.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter explores practices of problematisation and expertise. It argues that looking for solutions to problems can reproduce the regime of truth that leads to the so-called problems in the first place. Problematising famine is an example, and what are put forward as ways of ending hunger can turn out to be functioning to reproduce it. Turning to expertise, the chapter examines the case of Dr David Kelly, a scientist who attempted to challenge the manipulation of intelligence to justify the Iraq war. When an ‘expert’ such as Kelly enters the political fray, their voices are sometimes either not heard, or even suppressed. Is there an alternative? The chapter suggests that thinking in terms of a slow listening and an excavation of forgotten subaltern knowledge – and a quiet rebuilding of the world, brick by brick – may help.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter examines the desire to help those we see as victims of crisis or disaster, in particular through what we call humanitarian intervention. It looks at how such actions can perpetuate the very divisions that produce the problem in the first place. Through their reliance on a distinction between the human and the non-human, those politically qualified and those not, humanitarianism shares a secret solidarity with the exclusionary practices of the state and the coloniser. The chapter examines David Reiff’s book A Bed for the Night and considers the dangers of ethics and criteria for a ‘good’ or humanitarian war. There is a tension, the chapter argues, between small actions, face to face, and the desire to do more: to change the world.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

In this chapter, the slow violence of austerity, classism and racism is contrasted with the swift justice that is meted out to Omega Mwaikambo, a Grenfell resident who took photographs of one of the people who jumped from the tower on the night of the fire. It examines the ‘blackening’ of the community both before and after the fire and their ongoing search for justice and recognition. The chapter assembles traces from the public domain of what happened to Mwaikambo into a narrative account that points to the complexities of the interactions between individuals, the police, and the courts after the fire, and highlights the inadequacy of procedures for the forensic identification of those who died.

Open Access (free)

Jenny Edkins

The chapter provides a semi-autobiographical narrative that considers classism and racism against the background of movement from one class to another and the dislocation that produces. It explores James Martell’s notions of misinterpellation – when someone responds to a call that they know is not for them – and how a refusal of interpellation can function politically as a decolonising move. If, instead of taking on the habits and values to which we are called, we retain our loyalty to the place we are from, whatever that might be, then we have the potential to resist interpellation’s colonising move.