Reflections from the Conference EXPLORING THE BORDERLANDS
Historians of war, conflict, and violence do not tend to talk about the body very much. This is odd because (as the literary philosopher, Elaine Scarry, pointed out) if war is about anything, it is about causing pain to human bodies. Were the business of war not about violently injuring the body, we’d be sorting out our conflicts in different ways. We know this, and yet don’t know it at the same time, and have done, perhaps, since The Iliad taught us, in philosopher, Simone Weil’s words, how war is a relentless, violent, force that turns ‘anybody who is subjected to it into a thing.’
To think about bodies, then, the torn bodies of combatants, civilians, women who have been raped, as being somehow secondary to war is wrong. These bodies are war. Nor is it just the bodies of victims that matter in this sense. The memory – the history – of war is carried in our bodies: as the children born of war demonstrate so vividly.
To think about bodies and war like this makes the performing arts and, in particular, dance incredibly important because they bring the bodies occluded by history, the history which is nearly always the history of victors, literally centre stage. In the shapes our bodies make, the way they move together, the spaces they leave in our vision of the world, there is the human story of war.
Alongside the idea dance and the performing arts might bring academic research to a wider audience, therefore, IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, I think, has a potentially even more ambitious and radical agenda: to help transform the catastrophic ways in which we do our politics with one another’s bodies.
Lyndsey Stonebridge, Professor of Humanities and Human Rights at the Department of English at the University of Birmingham. Her work focuses on twentieth-century and contemporary literature and history, Human Rights, and Refugee Studies, drawing on the interdisciplinary connections between literature, history, politics, law and social policy. The interdisciplinary focus of Professor Stonebridge’s work is key to her wider project to re-cast global histories of human rights and justice across a broad and comparative modern moral and political canvas, such, for example, as in her current collaborative Global Challenges project with refugees and their host communities in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, Refugee Hosts.