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Showing papers in "Women’s Studies Quarterly in 2008"


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Over the past decade such operations seem to have increased not only in publicity, but also in actual frequency; the sanctioning of transsexuality is tightly framed by comparisons with punishments for sodomy and the presumed illegality of homosexuality-echoing some of the official thinking in Iran.
Abstract: Something happened in 2003-4: transsexuals and transsexuality in Iran suddenly became a hot media topic, both in Iran and internationally. The medical practice of sex change by means of surgery and hormones dates to at least the early 1970s in Iran; for nearly three decades the topic had received occasional coverage in the Iranian press, including a series of reports (presumably based on real lives) published in a popular magazine, Rah-i zindigi (Path of Life), beginning in 1999.1 Iranian press coverage of "trans-" phenomena increased sharply in early 2003, however, and it has continued intensely ever since - sometimes the reports directly address transsexuals and transsexuality, and sometimes they pertain to them in the context of other people marked as "vulnerable to social harm," such as prostitutes (both male and female) and runaway girls, who reportedly Uve trans-dressed lives. It was these last two topics that drew the attention of documentary filmmaker Mitra Farahani to the subject of transsexuals in Iran. Her documentary Just a Woman won international acclaim at the 2002 Berlin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and elsewhere and seems to have ignited broader international attention to the issue of transsexuality in Iran. A flurry of articles appeared in the world press in 2004-5. The Guardian, for example, wrote on July 27, 2005, that "today, the Islamic Republic of Iran occupies the unlikely role of global leader for sex change," adding, "Iran has even become a magnet for patients from eastern European and Arab countries seeking to change their genders." A number of television documentaries in France, Sweden, Holland, and the United Kingdom followed, as well as several independent documentary film productions (Abdo 2000; Eqbali 2004; Fathi 2004; McDowall and Khan 2004; Harrison 2005; Stack 2005; Tait 2005). The celebratory tone of many of these reports - welcoming recognition of transsexuality and the permissibility of sex change operations - is sometimes mixed with an element of surprise: How could this be happening in an Islamic state? In other accounts, the sanctioning of transsexuality is tightly framed by comparisons with punishments for sodomy and the presumed illegality of homosexuality-echoing, as we shall see, some of the official thinking in Iran. 2 While transsexual surgeries are not new in Iran, over the past decade such operations seem to have increased not only in publicity, but also in actual frequency. At the first national symposium on transsexuality, "Studying Gender Identity Disorder," held in the northeastern provincial capital of Mashhad in May 2005, Dr. Aliriza Kahani, from the National Legal Medical Board, reported that in the fifteen years between 1987 and 2001, 200 males and 70 females had submitted sex change petitions to the board, and 214 had been approved. Over the following four years, between 2001 and 2004, another 200 petitions had been received (Shakhis, May 24, 2005). 3 Anecdotal statistics from a private sex change clinic in Tehran point to similar increases-for the period 1985-95, 125 of 153 clients went through partial or full sex change operations; in the decade that followed, the numbers increased to 200 surgeries in a client population of 210. The increasing frequency of sex change petitions and operations is not an unproblematically positive development, empowering though this trend has been for transsexuals. Many political challenges are posed by framing transsexuality within a dominant mapping of sexuality that explicitly renders as diseased, abnormal, deviant, and at times criminal any sexual or gender nonconformity (including transsexuality itself, as well as same-sex desires and practices). For legal and medical authorities, sex change surgeries are explicitly framed as the cure for a diseased abnormality, and on occasion they are proposed as a religio-legally sanctioned option for heteronormalizing people with same-sex desires or practices. Even though this possible option has not become state policy (because official discourse is also invested in making an essential distinction between transsexuals and homosexuals), recent international media coverage of transsexuality in Iran increasingly emphasizes the possibility that sex-reassignment surgery (SRS) is being performed coercively on Iranian homosexuals by a fundamentalist Islamic government (Ireland 2007). …

66 citations


Journal Article
TL;DR: In Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation, the authors, the import of aesthetic pleasure in shifting modes of Holocaust representation ranging from French and German literature and the visual arts to architectural sites in North America and Germany is explored.
Abstract: BRETT ASHLEY KAPLAN'S UNWANTED BEAUTY: AESTHETIC PLEASURE IN HOLOCAUST REPRESENTATION, URBANA: UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS PRESS, 2007 ERIC KLIGERMAN In her rich comparative study Unwanted Beauty: Aesthetic Pleasure in Holocaust Representation, Brett Ashley Kaplan probes the import of aesthetic pleasure in shifting modes of Holocaust representation ranging from French and German literature and the visual arts to architectural sites in North America and Germany Rather than contributing to an ethical rupture, Kaplan argues, "beautiful representations can enhance Holocaust remembrance" (2) Contrary to Hal Foster's demonization of beauty, Kaplan joins other scholars who see a resurgence of aesthetic pleasure in literature and art However, Kaplan goes one step further by reading beauty alongside Holocaust representations Unwanted Beauty complements other recent works that investigate various aesthetic strategies of witnessing the Shoah in relation to questions of affect But counter to Weissman's Fantasies of Witnessing and Landsberg's concept of prosthetic memory, where each scholar examines how the nonwitness desires to feel the horrors of the Holocaust, Kaplan asserts that art does not need to terrorize in order to deepen our understanding of trauma Instead, "'illicit' aesthetic pleasure of unwanted beauty" (3) helps in the construction of Holocaust memory and "deepenfs] [the] search for Holocaust understanding" (20) Kaplan tracks the development of aesthetic pleasure from its use as a survival tool in the literature of primary witnesses to a device that catalyzes memory of the nonwitness Following her theoretical discussion of the beautiful and sublime, she probes in chapter 1 how aesthetic pleasure in the works of Celan and Delbo assists in their survival; chapter 2 continues with an exploration of how the transformative powers of beauty in Semprun's novels help him come to terms with his traumatic memory; chapter 3 shows how Jabes's aesthetic allusions to the Holocaust shift the task of witnessing to the reader, who is compelled to uncover poetry's traumatic residue; chapter 4 examines the function of visual pleasure in Kiefer and Boltanski and the degrees to which they aestheticize mourning Unwanted Beauty concludes with an analysis of the tensions between aesthetic pleasure and architecture as Kaplan rejects critics' tendencies to read monumental aesthetics as fascistic Kaplan's introduction presents the ethical implications of rendering the Holocaust into beautiful forms, and she repudiates the three interdictions against beauty most often invoked by critics: Adorno's critique that poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric, the position that the uniqueness of the Holocaust requires a new mode of representation to confront its horrors, and the assumption that beauty is indicative of a particular fascist aesthetics While scholars such as Lyotard link the Holocaust to the crisis of representation by invoking Kant's sublime and exalting the disruption of the artwork, Kaplan denies the premise that beautiful art is a disservice to traumatic memory Although her theoretical model would benefit from a closer analysis of what in particular constitutes beauty and sensual pleasure, her incisive, close readings of literary and visual texts help illuminate some of these distinct features of aesthetic pleasure Chapter 1 begins by returning to the oft-discussed polemic between Adorno's critique of poetry after Auschwitz and Celan's signature poem, "Death Fugue" But what makes this chapter so compelling are Kaplan's provocative readings of Delbo and Proust Moving away from Freud's model of traumatic memory, Kaplan foregrounds instead the intricacies of Proust's figure of memory and its associations with sensual pleasure The invocation of how pleasure evokes memory in Remembrance of Things Past-the nostalgia induced by a madeleine soaked in tea-functions as the template to how unwanted beauty influences Holocaust memory …

28 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The Bringing Them Home report as mentioned in this paper has been used as a basis for a number of legal proceedings, such as the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) inquiry into the policies, practices, and effects of removing children of mixed descent from their mothers and communities to be forcibly assimilated into white Australian culture.
Abstract: Like many other nations, Australia has been engaged in a painful reckoning with a shameful past. In the past fifteen years, questions concerning the removal of Indigenous children from their families, known as the "stolen generations," the extent of frontier violence, and whether genocide occurred in Australia have been central to the public controversy over how the story of "settlement" or "invasion" should be narrated. Testimony has played a crucial role in this confrontation with the past, as Indigenous Australians have been called upon to testify to past injustices and their continuing legacies in the present. In the 1980s and 1990s Aboriginal women pioneered the use of personal testimony in memoirs, bringing into visibility "forgotten" practices of child removal.1 Aboriginal organizations such as Link-Up, which helps separated individuals locate family members, also published collections of "stolen generations" testimony (see, for instance, Edwards and Read 1989; Link-Up and Wilson 1997). It was not, however, until 1996, when the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) conducted a National Inquiry into the policies, practices, and effects of removing children of mixed descent from their mothers and communities, to be forcibly assimilated into white Australian culture, that testimony achieved national prominence. In 1997, HREOC published its moving report, Bringing Them Home (Wilson 1997), which exposed the brutality, loneliness, and loss of family, identity, culture, and language that was experienced by children who had been removed. Although the report drew on international human rights law to argue, controversially, that child removal constituted cultural genocide, in foregrounding victim testimony, it participated in a global trend in which claims of historical injustice are articulated through personal stories of suffering.2 In court, testimony is subjected to an adversarial process of crossexamination, which is meant to reveal whether the witness is reliable, and whether there are significant gaps or contradictions in the testimony, which may invalidate it. By contrast, semijudicial processes such as truth commissions and national inquiries tend to take a dialogic approach, in which to testify is "to address another, to impress upon a listener, to appeal to a community" (Felman and Laub 1992, 204). In this conception, "witness" refers both to the person who gives testimony and to the secondary witness who receives it. Listening and acknowledging the other's suffering and loss are crucial aspects of the testimonial exchange. In asking Australians to "listen . . . with an open heart and mind" to stories of Indigenous suffering and trauma, the Bringing Them Home report presented testimony as a dialogic process with social, political, historical, and ethical significance, rather than simply a matter of fact-finding (Wilson 1997, 3). Predictably, some conservative critics and journalists challenged the legitimacy of the testimonies on the grounds that witnesses were not subject to a judicial process of cross-examination.3 The Australian public, however, responded to the call to bear witness, turning out in large numbers to express their regret by signing Sorry Day books, participating in reconciliation walks, and offering other symbolic gestures. As historian Robert Manne has noted, "No inquiry in recent Australian history has had a more overwhelming reception or ... a more culturally transforming impact. ... It soon seemed to many Australians that no historical question was of greater importance than the stolen generations" (2001, 5-6). The National Inquiry held out considerable promise for the power of witnessing to heal Aboriginal individuals and communities, to unify the nation in confronting the past, and to contribute to the ongoing process of reconciliation. It also played a powerful role in legitimating Indigenous testimony as a significant historical and cultural form. For instance, it recommended that the federal government provide funding to collect oral histories from members of the "stolen generations," their adoptive parents and carers, and patrol officers and missionaries. …

10 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The sixteenth century in France was a "constitutional moment" as discussed by the authors, a time when political theorists and jurists articulated a full and rich iteration of the value of constitutionalism and legal-parliamentary authority in relation to the monarch.
Abstract: FRANCE BEFORE SUNRISE: TWO POLITICAL THEORIES MEET The sixteenth century in France was a “constitutional moment”—a time when political theorists and jurists articulated a full and rich iteration of the value of constitutionalism and legal-parliamentary authority in relation to the monarch. It was also a moment to “witness” in many senses. It was a time to witness history—Henri II died in a jousting match, only to be followed by three degenerate sons who died in short succession; Catherine de Medici incited the hatred of rival factions; and thousands of Huguenots were massacred in Paris on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572. It was also a time of witnessing in a religious sense, as the Wars of Religion tore France apart and the powerful Catholic Ligue targeted the French Calvinists; and it was an instance when witnessing gained new associations related to a striking growth in France’s judicial infrastructure caused by the sale of new offices. By the end of the century, this tremendous political and social instability resulted in the development of a different perspective on political organization and absolutist theory came into circulation, bringing with it a significantly different sense of witnessing. During the first half of the seventeenth century these two political theories vied for the right to define the terms of engagement. For women, this battle between political perspectives was especially important. Each theory, constitutionalism and absolutism, represented a distinct vision of sovereignty—the former emphasized the need for strong judicial governance and the latter the need for a strong monarch—and affected whether women witnessed in a religious sense or in a legal one, as rightsholders and members of the political community. Framing the theoretical conversation about sovereignty were two distinct political positions regarding the nature of kingship and what—if

3 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: For example, the authors pointed out that women's domestic violence can be seen as a form of torture and as a weapon of national and international conflict (see, e.g., the United Nations secretary general's InDepth Study on All Forms of Violence Against Women, submitted to the General Assembly in fall 2006).
Abstract: I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this discussion of Judith Herman's important book Trauma and Recovery and its relevance today. In this volume, published in 1992, Herman developed many crucial dimensions of battering that continue to be essential to work on violence against women. In these brief comments, I want to highlight two of these dimensions. The first is the link between battering, trauma, and larger political and social violence-what I would call the operation of gender violence on a macro level. I remember reading the book for the first time after I had already been doing work on legal representation of battered women for many years. I was amazed by the very first chapters, in which Herman makes the connection between political violence and battering. I realized that my own understanding of violence against women had been limited by my sense of it as being within the context of a relationship between two people. Yes, I had seen it as political, as a part of a larger context of patriarchy and gender subordination, but I had not consistently made the link between larger political violence and violence against women. Herman saw that battering was "terrorism in the home" and made those links explicit (see Marcus 1994). Aspects of Herman's analogies have been integrated into sociological and psychological accounts of battering, such as the use of the phrase "hostage." But the past fifteen years has seen the development and expansion of these insights, particularly in the context of a global women's international human rights movement (see Schneider 2000). This movement has explicitly linked sexual violence and political violence. We now understand gender violence as a form of torture and recognize that violence against women occurs in wartime and as a weapon of national and international conflict (Copelon 2003). Even the United Nations secretary general's In-Depth Study on All Forms of Violence Against Women, submitted to the General Assembly in fall 2006 (and on which I worked as a consultant), recognized gender violence as a human rights violation and as a vehicle of war (United Nations General Assembly 2006). The law school casebook on battering that I coauthored includes a chapter on international human rights and emphasizes that international human rights frameworks expand our understanding of battering as linked to larger political and social violence (see DaIton, Schneider 2001; Schneider, Hanna, Greenberg, and Dalton 2008). …