Imagining Genocide: Representations of Victimhood in Religion, Comics, Film
Recognition is a key issue both in genocide prevention and in post-genocide reparative programmes. The struggle for recognition can severely limit the avenues of redress open to affected communities, as in the case of the Chinese Uyghurs, the Rohingya, or the 1951 “We Charge Genocide” petition. The papers in this panel examine an often overlooked precondition for recognition: popular imagination. Especially in the digital age, where popular narratives circulate widely and rapidly, shaping political discourse not only through ordinary dissemination but becoming directly implicated in political discourse as memes, attention to such popular representations forms a key aspect of genocide prevention. How do popular narratives of what is and isn’t genocide, who is and isn’t a victim, create conditions for the recognition or misrecognition of genocide? Drawing together narratives from the Bible, comic books, and film, this panel addresses questions such as: How does naming things as genocide or not naming them as genocide cultivate particular attitudes towards the victims? Do the genocide narratives in the Hebrew Bible shape ideas of holy war that include a justification of genocide? How then do we shift the frame of representation to account for the perspective of victims?
Presentations of the Symposium
Viewing Victimhood: Biblical Genocide in Cinema
This paper examines the portrayal of victimhood through film adaptations of acts of genocide in the biblical text. By presenting particular stories in a fresh light, filmmakers have explored issues of genocide and victimhood in ancient and modern worlds using a variety of approaches. Films such as Amos Gitai’s Esther (1986), Cheick Oumar Sissoko’s La Genese (1998) and Boris Gerrets’s Lamentations of Judas (2020) direct audiences to explore familiar stories from the perspective of the victims of genocide, shifting popular perceptions about blame and victimhood.
Representations of Trauma: Depictions of Post-Genocidal Reconciliation
This paper explores how reconciliation and the survivor perspective are reflected in films/television series which depict the aftermath of genocide, including Black Earth Rising (2018), Ida (2013), Ararat (2002), and Divided We Fall (2000). To what extent are these representations correcting silences, mediating memory, and dealing with the concept of intergenerational trauma transmission? Ultimately, this paper will discuss representations of post-genocidal reconciliation in these films in relation to how useful they are for generating an understanding of post-genocidal trauma in a global context.
Representations of Reparation: Post-Genocide Victim Responsibility in Comic Books
This paper explores the way that the aftermath of mass killings are depicted in Marvel Comics’ X-Men series, with a particular focus on the comic books’ portrayals of victim responsibility. The X-Men series is particularly interesting for such a study as the eponymous mutant heroes are frequently depicted as the targets of genocide (although very often comic book mass killings are not explicitly labelled as such) but also as superheroes whose powers are capable of endangering humanity, thereby complicating common popular depictions of genocide victims as abject and powerless. Focussing particularly on two storylines--”Genosha” and “Krakoa”--which emphasise mutant sovereignty as a post-genocide reparative project with unintended negative consequences, this paper examines the way that the presentation of victim populations as threats prevents genocide recognition and constrains potential reparations.