GEOPOLITICAL EVERYDAY

A shared archive hosted by Rastko Novakovic, which will be mobilised in a series of short movies. You are invited to explore and contribute.

upon reading “Transitional Justice” by Stasa Zajovic

Published in 2007 – ‘Transitional Justice – A feminist approach, The experience of the Women in Black‘  was written in the streets and inscribed into the bodies of the Women in Black between 1991 and the present day.

The book provides a very short international history of state and institutional mechanisms/processes of transitional justice. It also outlines the details of ‘civil society’ initiatives for transitional justice – pressure onto the state and institutions: people’s tribunals, women’s tribunals, the denial of past as a criminal offence, symbolic compensation (commemoration, monuments, memorials), redemption/apology/catharsis, living memory and action, naming and shaming, reconciliation, moral regeneration. Having set the context and concerns, the last part outlines the experience, actions and thinking of the Women in Black (a summary in English can be found here).

I want to make two sets of remarks:

1) What struck me most of all is the shape of the book, the shape of its thinking and argument. The shape is that of a spiral, which one can find here, in a transcript of Stasa Zajovic from the  film ‘Always Disobedient – Women in Black’:

We know that woman is identified with the nation and then later with the fatherland. When that fatherland is in danger of war, that identification becomes broadened woman-mother-nation-fatherland. Then that homeland is at war, that war generates death, and we have the identification mother-death. And that is what theorists of fascism often call the core of fascism.

The entire work of WiB is a breaking out of that spiral. But the work is not only linear, it works on each segment of the chain. There is work for women’s autonomy: political, social, moral. The nation is exploded by internationalism, by constant monitoring of the instutions of the state and pressure on them, the public space which by default belongs to the nation is claimed as a space of women, of anti-nationalism, the nation is  traversed by a women’s network. The fatherland is exposed as a series of institutions and injunctions. War is exposed as being a result of militarisation, of patriarchy of its institutions. That means, that from which ever point in the chain one enters, the result is positive feminist action.

But that also means that from which ever EMOTION one enters, one is brought to action. Shame, rage, powerlessness, care, pride, reproach, love, solidarity, sorrow are all treated in the book as stepping stones. Not only are all of them seen in motion, never static, but they are also allowed to have their place and power only in the constellation where all of them are allowed to exist. This is the impressive legacy of the lived experience of WiB.

2) A question which haunts me is: how does one undo the state and the centralised and alienated power of its institutions? A simple standpoint one could take on WiB would be that they are simply an NGO, that they are part of the liberal agenda, that they make no provisions for the undoing of the state, but only for its reform. Knowing how strong WiBs internationalism is and has been throughout the war (it puts to shame many supposedly left organisations during the war period), how effective its support of deserters had been and that the legalisation of conscientious objectors in Serbia is due to them, the building of true women’s autonomy where there was none to speak of, the constant attack on the state and its institutions and the mechanisms in which they hide their criminal past which acts as an education for any left movement worthy of that name

(listen to Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco from The Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Belgrade for example, who is here speaking of the international relationship between the ICTY and the nation state, but which can be expanded to an internal, national position: When it comes to crimes, sovereignty has no meaning whatsoever. No state can allow itself to protect war criminals in the name of sovereignty)

this view is made problematic. What remains is the clearest anti-war stance throughout the past 19 years, the education of generations of activists, grassroots activism, the solidarity with many organisations and one of the strongest expressions of transversal politics.

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