Accepted Paper:

Recalling what was once unspeakable: hunger in North Korea  


Sandra Fahy (EHESS)

Paper long abstract:

This paper considers not only what is unspeakable at the time of interview, but also what was unspeakable at the time of the event. Mass violence censors, obfuscates and makes ambiguous while simultaneously destroying lives. Thus several levels of silencing occur on a national, collective and individual level long before the stage where the interviewer faces the silence of the survivor. The silence of the survivor can tell us a great deal about those former stages of silencing, and thus individuate the mass violence itself. By using testimonies collected from survivors of the North Korean 1990s famine, this paper discusses degrees of silencing in situ, the role of the interviewer and her techniques, as well as existing scholarship on mass violence in socialist states. The paper argues that the speech patterns of survivors, their varied silences, provide a picture of the socio-political frameworks which sustained and perpetuated the violence of the state.

Panel P09
Recalling the unspeakable: interviewers facing silence