Accepted Paper:

Sepur Zarco, Guatemala: 'bodying forth' and the forensic aesthetics of witnessing in the courtroom and beyond  

Author:

Silvia Posocco (Birkbeck, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on long-term ethnographic research on the Guatemalan conflict, this paper examines processes of witnessing, subjectification, and desubjectificaton in the legal proceedings related to the case of sexual and labour slavery in armed conflict known as the 'Sepur Zarco' case.

Paper long abstract:

In September 2012, fifteen Maya Q'echi' women and three men appeared as witnesses in the High Risk Court in Guatemala City. The hearings related to events that took place in a military base near the village of Sepur Zarco, Izabal, between 1982 and 1986, and were framed as the first major case of sexual violence committed by the Guatemalan Army during the Guatemalan conflict to reach the courts, as well as the first case of sexual and labor slavery in armed conflict ever to be heard in a national court. The hearings led to a trial, and on 26 February 2016, to two convictions. Drawing on long-term ethnographic research on the Guatemalan conflict and at selected court hearings, in this paper, I examine how the figures of a woman, Dominga Coc, and her two daughters, Anita and Hermelinda, emerge in the court proceedings. Focusing on the partial scene of the court hearings, I examine processes of witnessing, subjectification and desubjectificaton - with their differential affective registers and logics of evidence. I focus on processes of 'bodying forth' (Das 2007) in the declarations of the different parties, as they conjure up Dominga Coc on the riverbank washing Army uniforms under duress, or as the body of the forensic exhumation. 'Bodying forth', as a gendered and racialized process of witnessing, materialisation and subjectification, is tied to performative forensic imaginaries and aesthetics in the courtroom, the broader Guatemalan body politic, and beyond.

Panel P091
Anthropologies of witnessing: imaginaries, technologies, practices