For anthropologists working with histories of violence & erasure, the trace is an important methodological & analytical tool. This panel asks if the trace can be made to speak & should it? How can we represent traces of slavery, conflict, & ethnic cleansing, & their affective & political power?
For anthropologists working with histories of violence and erasure, the trace has become an important methodological and analytical tool. Material environments, from objects, landscapes, buildings, and bodies, are haunted by traces of other histories and social worlds. Traces are spacio-temporal events that reveal the affective relationship between the individual, the social world and the environment. They hold, manifest and transmit memories and lingering histories otherwise unspoken. For Napolitano (2015), they are knots of histories at the margins, situated in the social fields of marginalization, auratic presence, repression and forgetting. This way they speak of both the limits of representation and the anthropological sublime. Anthropologists dealing with traces of violent histories, therefore, have to ask not only if the trace can be made to speak, but should it? What was once a purely academic problem has become one of the key conflicts in recent debates on historical memory - can we find a way to embrace the traces of alternate histories that haunt our places? What do we do with the traces of slavery, conflict, and ethnic cleansing that stalk small communities? How can we account for these traces? How do we represent their affective and political dimensions?