Witnessing Absent Pasts: The Urgency and Difficulty of Memorializing Wartime Sexual Violence | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


Numerous memorials commemorate victims of wars and genocides, ranging from Holocaust memorials to national memory sites of historical events and monuments of war veterans, but there are only a few memorials to commemorate a significantly large victim group: female victims of wartime sexual abuse. While the memories of rape have largely been absent from discourses on trauma because neither the victims nor the perpetrators are eager to share them, an increasing number of studies address the issue, and some memorials dedicated to these painful pasts have recently been initiated, such as Fragments – Space of Art and Memory in Bogota and the Memorial to Wartime Rape Victims in Budapest. Although the two memorials are connected to distinct histories and differ in many regards, they both aim at raising awareness in sexual violence alongside commemorating forgotten victims. In this paper I will discuss how the designers of these memory sites create spaces of reflection and what tools they employ to bring the issue closer to audiences that have not witnessed war and violence directly. I argue that despite the complexity and difficulty of transmitting such memories, these memorials enable debate and reflection through the artistic articulation of space.


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