Notes on the subaltern: Or, how postcolonial critique meets the perpetrator

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Abstract / Description of output

This chapter contemplates how postcolonial thinking may confront the figure of the perpetrator. In particular, it addresses acts of violence perpetrated against the subaltern and outlines the implications of asking the question of perpetratorship in such contexts. Insofar as scenes of violation are constituted through the triangulation of subject, object, and act, postcolonial critique inquires after the act as that which rehearses the institution of object and subject as such. That is, from the perspective of postcolonial critique, a consideration of violence against the subaltern necessitates an analysis beyond acts as singular or evental, and requires instead a consideration of acts of violence as signifying gestures. Specifically, postcolonial thinking demands an attentiveness to the foreclosure of particular modes of existence – effected by the institution of the figure of the human – as a primordial act of violence. As such, it calls for an engagement with the itineraries of power that have instituted the subaltern as unlawful existence, or as excess. Contemporary scenes of violence, then, are the present unfolding of this originary violation. This chapter thus proposes perpetratorship as the ongoing creation of a material record of the ‘truth’ – that of the annihilability, or non-mattering, of the subaltern intended towards the preservation of the human. To wit, the perpetration of violence is authorised by this truth. Such an approach to the figure of perpetrator, and the question of perpetratorship, entails a self-implicating practice that recognises the witness/researcher/writer as subject in whose service violation unfolds.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies
EditorsZachary Goldberg, Susanne Knittel
ISBN (Electronic)9781315102887
ISBN (Print)9781138103245
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge International Handbooks


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