Accepted Paper:

Spoken into presence: differential materialization, embodiment and subjectification in the Sepur Zarco hearings, Guatemala  


Silvia Posocco (Birkbeck, University of London)

Paper Short Abstract:

The paper focuses on an ethnographic analysis of an 'aporia of justice' in Guatemala, namely, the Sepur Zarco hearings in the prominent case of sexual violence and sexual and labour slavery committed by the Guatemalan Army during the Guatemalan conflict (1960-1996).

Paper long abstract:

In September 2012, fifteen Maya Q'echi' women and three men appeared as witnesses in the Tribunal de Mayor Riesgo (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 Army during the Guatemalan conflict (1960-1996) to reach the courts, as well as the first case of sexual and labour slavery in armed conflict ever to be heard in a national court. Drawing on ethnographic research at selected 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 ask what processes of subjectification and desubjectificaton - with their differential affective registers and logics of evidence - may be at stake in the declarations of the witnesses, the mediations of the translators, the occasional interventions of the psychologists, the lines of questioning deployed by the legal teams of the Ministerio Público (Public Prosecution) and Alianza Rompiendo el Silencio (Alliance Breaking the Silence) for the prosecution, and those of the defense. Further, I consider what processes of bodying forth may be at stake in the declarations of the different parties, siting Dominga on the riverbank - washing Army uniforms under duress, or as the body of the forensic exhumation - precariously positioned between remembrance and oblivion, but gradually being spoken into presence.

Panel P10
The Ríos Montt trial and other aporias of justice in Guatemala