Accepted paper:

Speaking blood: expressions of sexual violence in Guadeloupe

Authors:

Janine Klungel

Paper short abstract:

It is the substance of blood and its metaphorical power to express sexual violence that is at the heart of this paper. It aims at listening attentively to this metaphoric language which is often called ‘silence’, because it is considered too general and metaphoric to describe the actual experience. In contrast, I argue that anthropologists lack an adequate research apparatus to investigate these metaphoric expressions rather than that women raped are unable to express themselves adequately.

Paper long abstract:

Women in the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe frequently narrate their experiences with sexual violence in a metaphoric language in which blood is a key symbol. They explain that they could not verbalise their painful rape experiences at first, but that they spoke blood instead, which they threw up like big balls or trickled from the corner of their mouths as a narrating voice. In the local idiom, blood vomiting is commonly perceived as a sign of bewitchment. This allows Guadeloupian women to speak publicly about sexual violence, because they accuse other women of witchcraft - usually women who are part of the family but are not blood related - to have manipulated the spirits of dead men by speaking a curse over their bloodstained sanitary towel. At night, these manipulated spirits of dead men penetrate their houses and rape them repeatedly, just as during slavery, when European men haunted African women as they 'invisibly' forced entrance in their cabins to rape them. It is the substance of blood and its metaphorical power to express sexual violence that is at the heart of this paper. Based on longitudinal multi-sited fieldwork in one extended Guadeloupian family, it aims at listening attentively to this metaphoric language which is often called 'silence', because it is considered too general and metaphoric to describe the actual experience (Das 1997). In contrast, I argue that anthropologists lack an adequate research apparatus to investigate these metaphoric expressions rather than that women raped are unable to express themselves adequately.

panel W039
Violence expressed