Added: December 3, 2016 – Last updated: December 3, 2016


Speaker: Nayanika MookherjeeDiscussants: Erica Hall, Kolbassia Haoussou, Naila Kabeer, Denisa Kostovicova

Title: The Spectral Wound

Subtitle: Sexual violence, public memories and the Bangladesh war of 1971

Institution: Centre for Women, Peace and Security, London School of Economics and Political Science

Place: London, United Kingdom

Date: October 13, 2016

Language: English

Keywords: Modern History: 20th Century | Asian History: Bangladeshi History, Pakistani History | Types: Wartime Rape / Bangladesh Liberation War


Link: -


Speaker: Nayanika Mookherjee, Department of Anthropology, Durham


»In Spectral Wound, Nayanika Mookherjee counters the assumption of silence relating to wartime rape and maps out the circulation of public memories related to the sexual violence of the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 (Muktijuddho). This public memory manifests in the internationally unprecedented state designation of the raped women as birangonas ('brave women') in 1971; an extensive 45 year old archive of visual and literary representations of the raped woman dating back to 1971; and human rights testimonies of poor and middle class birangonas since the 1990s.
The book demonstrates that while this celebration of birangonas as heroes keeps them in the public memories, they exist in the public consciousness as what Mookherjee calls a 'spectral wound'. Dominant representations of birangonas as dehumanized victims with disheveled hair, and rejected by their communities create this wound, the effects of which flatten the diversity of their experiences through which birangonas have lived with this violence of wartime rape.
The book examines the circulation of images, press and literary representations, testimonies of rape among survivors of sexual violence and their families, the left-liberal civil society and state actors. It focuses not only on the experiences of women but also of that of men; examines public memory and public secrecy of wartime rape in a post-conflict context rather than seeking to highlight silent narratives; and finally locates the narratives within wider political, literary and visual contexts.
In critically examining the pervasiveness of the birangona construction, the book decentres the prevalent understandings of stigma, silence, honour, shame and reparations relating to wartime rape and opens the possibility for a more politico-economic and ethical inquiry into the sexuality of war.« (Source: Centre for Women, Peace and Security, London School of Economics and Political Science)

Publication: Mookherjee, Nayanika. The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories and the Bangladesh War of 1971. Durham 2015. – Bibliographic Entry: Info

Wikipedia: History of Asia: History of Bangladesh, History of Pakistan | Types of rape: Wartime sexual violence | War: Bangladesh Liberation War / Rape during the Bangladesh Liberation War