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Accepted Paper:

Mobilising Images, Muktir Gaan and migrants of the Bangladesh war of 1971  
Nayanika Mookherjee (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to explore the affective aesthetics of the fixing of the representation of the nation through mobile images. I focus on the encounter between middle class refugees, the poor and the raped migrant woman of the Bangladesh war of 1971 and the resulting displacement. In the process, the paper questions the potential of a global economy of signs.

Paper long abstract:

To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric’ (Adorno 1967 [1955]: 34).

Adorno’s dictum reminds us of the unrepresentability of violence through various aesthetic forms. At the same time, aesthetic artefacts have been able to capture the performance of feelings and memories, of public hurt existing outside legal procedures, when people have sought to redress instances of past injustices (Mookherjee, Nayanika and Chris Pinney. 2011. ‘Aesthetics of nations: Anthropological and historical perspectives’. Special Issue of Journal of Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI)


The ‘therapeutic’ and ‘emancipatory’ possibilities of aesthetic registers in representing violent past injustices should not however consign to oblivion the political contradiction that the aesthetic visibility of conflicts bring to the narrative signification. Jacques Ranciere (2006, Politics of Aesthetics) argues: ‘Politics consist in reconfigurating the partition of the sensible , in bringing on the stage new objects and subjects , in making visible that which was not visible, audible as speaking beings they who were merely heard as noisy animals . To the extent that it sets up such scenes of dissensus, politics can be characterized as an "aesthetic" activity.’ [Jacques Ranciere’s Politics of Aesthetics (2006)] The paper examines such scenes of dissensus between different migrants of the Bangladesh war of 1971 through the lens of ‘The Concert for Bangladesh’ (1971) poster and Muktir Gaan (Songs of Freedom 1995) – the latter billed as a documentary and a ‘road movie’ and imbued with adventure, eroticism, pain and prospect of freedom.

Panel P34
Aesthetics, politics, conflict
  Session 1