A past that hurts: trauma, emotions and the politics of memory between Lisbon and Dhaka
(Center for Research in Anthropology (CRIA), Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
Paper short abstract:
Based on an ethnography of the debates between secular and islamist Bangladeshis in Lisbon, Portugal, this paper will argue that transnational migration contexts are spaces of contention of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic (national) memories.
Paper long abstract:
This presentation will ethnographically explore the relation between mobility, in this case, transnational migration, and the politics of memory (Hacking 1995). The objective is to reveal how the struggles for a dominant/hegemonic narrative about the past are fought out in a transnational context. In a way, and as Bayart (2004) argues, national memories are frequently, and to a certain extent paradoxically, (re)produced in transnational/mobile contexts. This argument will be explored through an ethnography of the debates between secular and islamist Bangladeshis in Lisbon, Portugal, about the role played by an islamist political party - Jamaat-i-Islami - and its main leaders during the Bangladeshi war of independence, in 1971. These heated debates in Lisbon began in 2003 but reached a climax in the past four years, in the context of the polemics of ICT - the International Crimes Tribunal implemented in Bangladesh in 2009, by the Awami League government, to investigate and prosecute suspects for the genocide committed during the independence war - and the Shabhag protests. In Lisbon, the secularists argue that this is a moment of closure and a way to come to terms with the trauma and emotions - the embodiements - of the past (Fassin 2008), namely by bringing the culprits to justice, while for the islamist, the ICT is only manipulating the past with political intent. In any case, what these debates reveal is how transnational migration contexts and diasporas are arenas actively engaged in the production of hegemonic and counter-hegemonic (national) memories.
Contested histories on the move: rethinking memory through mobility and agency