Notes on the Subaltern

Or, How Postcolonial Critique Meets the Perpetrator

Authored by: rashné limki

The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies

Print publication date:  November  2019
Online publication date:  October  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138103245
eBook ISBN: 9781315102887
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter contemplates how postcolonial thinking may confront the figure of the perpetrator. In particular, it addresses the Bhopal Gas Leak as an act of violence against the subaltern and outlines the implications of asking the question of perpetratorship in such contexts. It begins by re-presenting the field of Perpetrator Studies and the role of agency therein. Thereafter, it describes the institution of the subaltern as a figure that offends against humanity and presents postcolonial critique as a methodological investment in charting the itineraries of power that have rendered it a legitimate object of violence. Positing contemporary scenes of perpetration as iterations of this originary violation, the chapter calls into question the productivity of locating agency in the relationship between “doer” and “deed.” Instead, it proposes a refiguration of agency that recognizes the separability between doer (perpetrator) and observer (judge). This separability, it is argued, that affirms the latter as morally distinct from the former, constitutes a fundamental misrecognition not only of the subaltern but also of the observer as the subject in whose service violation unfolds. The chapter thus advances a self-implicating practice that recognizes the agency of the observer in the perpetration of violence against the subaltern.

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