Accepted Paper:

Ruins Before Victims: The primacy of the object in reconstructing the city  
Rana Abughannam (Carleton University)

Paper short abstract:

The paper analyzes two manuscripts that documented and provided a recovery strategy for Gaza post-attacks. The paper uncovers the texts fascination with physical traces as forensic evidence and argues that this fetishization pushes the victim to the background, limiting any possibility for recovery.

Paper long abstract:

The recent shift in the investigation of crimes from subjective human testimony to tactile objective evidence has produced new scientific models and forensic methodologies. With modern conflicts becoming more urbanized, forensics has acquired a new architectural dimension which uses rubble left by war to illustrate humanitarian violations. After the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza, thousands of destroyed and damaged buildings were documented through images and tables in "A Verification of Building-Destruction Resulting from Attacks by the Israeli Occupation". While these images were suggestive of the suffering civilians who once lived in those destructed houses, the emphasis on the physical ruins now stood in for human witnesses since the former could be studied dispassionately and forensically for the humanitarian present. Similarly, post-2014 attacks on Gaza, the National Consensus Government of Palestine produced a comprehensive assessment of the damage, economic loss and human impact of the war in a manuscript titled "Detailed Needs Assessment (DNA) and Recovery Framework for Gaza Reconstruction" in an attempt to produce a recovery strategy. Throughout the 305 pages document, tables, maps, and images were introduced as what seemed to be evidence of violence rather than an attempt to reconstruct the city. Through the analysis of the two previously mentioned documents, this paper uncovers the fascination with physical traces as evidence of conflict. It concludes that focusing purely on the physical ruin limits the process of reconstructing and recovery by demoting the human victim to the background of the process.

Panel P044
Revealing Histories of Violence: The Representational Politics of Trace