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Title: Bearing witness : truth, violence and biopolitics of everyday lives in Kashmir
Author: Mishra, Shubranshu
ISNI:       0000 0004 5994 4532
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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Who is a true witness? With the publication of Giorgio Agamben's Remnants of Auschwitz: The witness and the archive (1999), the scope of witnessing has become a deeply contested field. Is the true witness the one who does not survive, the Muselmann? Departing from Agamben, this research project argues that those who bear witness do so to convey the conditions that they lived through and survived or are enduring at present, thereby rejecting the burden of inauthenticity that their story is positioned at the expense of those who have been forced out of sight. They testify through speech or silences, mourning privately and publicly, remembering by memorialising or chronicling their journey from down to the nethermost on the spectrum of bare life, retrospectively or in an ongoing context of atrocity. Focusing on Kashmir, through field research from 2013-2015, to bring to light the structures of militarisation and acquiescence, this research brings to the fore personal narratives of people exposed to everyday violence to engage with the dominant scholarship in order to redefine the scope of witnessing. It explores the multiplicities of witnesses and the acts of bearing witness through three figures, namely, the mother of the disappeared, the local medical worker and the gravedigger of the unmarked mass graves in Kashmir, to point out the heterogeneities of bearing witness. The three figures suggest a spectrum of witnessing to a body: its absence, its reduction and its final departure, and at the same time, they bear witness to their own conditions of disposability. In so doing, there is a shift from an individual act, as advanced by Agamben, to the formation of collective forms of witnessing through a connection with the body, subsequent attachments and practices like public grieving. Departing from the understanding that the act of bearing witness is performed only when a violent event is over, this research will widen the scope by including the voices from an ongoing violent conflict in Kashmir to suggest the precarious existence in a camp and the possibilities of witnessing. This research project attempts to understand the techniques of witnessing by the actors in conflict as forms of truth telling and as a reflexive relationship through which people respond to their marginalisation by the state. Penalisation of public mourning in Kashmir suggests 'the courage of truth' and its relation with politics. With those propositions in mind to broaden the scope and shift the perspective, this research argues that bearing witness is a vital task to foreground one's grieving self and intervene in the production of the truth of unacknowledged violence.
Supervisor: Basaran, Tugba Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: J Political Science