How can we go about our work of saving lives when, in Syria, civilians, the
wounded and their families, medical personnel and aid workers are all targets
– whether in areas controlled by the government or those held by the
Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIL) or various rebel groups with diverging political agendas? Over the course
of several field missions, the author of this article, a member of
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sought to decipher the political
and military engagements undertaken in different regions of Syria during the war
years. He also factored into his analysis the endless flow of data, information
and positioning being produced and published over this period, because the war
was also fought every day on the internet where the representatives and
ideologists of warring groups, human rights organisations, Syrian diaspora
organisations and spokespersons of the Syrian central authorities were and still
are a permanent presence. Drawing on all these observations and data, the author
relates and analyses the emergency relief activities carried out by MSF in
Syria, how these activities evolved and the conditions in which choices to
intervene and decisions to withdraw were taken.
Monitoring of attacks on healthcare has made great strides in the past decade,
even if improvement in information has not necessarily resulted in changes on
the ground. However, important questions on the knowledge production process
continue to be under-explored, including those pertaining to the objectives of
monitoring efforts. What does our data actually tell us? Are we missing the
(data) point? This paper explores several monitoring mechanisms, and analyses
the limitations of the data-gathering exercise, affecting the ability of
healthcare workers to share their experiences. By drawing on the experiences of
those involved in the medical-humanitarian response in non-government controlled
areas in Syria, these dynamics are further brought to the fore, advocating for a
more discerning approach in the use of data for such disparate goals as analysis
on patterns of attacks (and their implications), advocacy, and
Based on the author’s experience as both a journalist and an independent
researcher working regularly in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this
article examines the many constraints that journalists face in areas of armed
conflict. It considers two unusual aspects of journalistic practice observed in
the DRC: first, the reporters’ lexical dependence
– that is, how the language journalists typically use to describe war is
borrowed, sometimes unconsciously, from the war-related rhetoric developed in
other fields – and second, journalists’ practical
dependence on humanitarian organisations and how this might influence the
articles they produce.
This article concerns itself with feminist comedy that is deemed angry and difficult in an era of postfeminism. Hannah Gadsby’s live show Nanette, released as a Netflix film, can be described as difficult because it is politically challenging, emotionally demanding and disrupts the established format of stand-up comedy. Yet it has had critical and commercial success. Nanette challenges the underpinning assumption of postfeminism: that feminism is no longer needed. It is feminist and angry. To explore the phenomenon of angry feminist comedy in the postfeminist era, the article considers the comedy of Gadsby through the figure of the feminist killjoy, coined by Sara Ahmed, to reflect how the killjoy and the queer art of failing offer forms of political ‘sabotage’ that subvert comedy as masculinist popular culture.
A Thematic Analysis of Collective Trauma and Enemy Image Construction in the 1980s American Action Film
During the 1980s the spectre of the Vietnam War haunted the sites of cinema and popular culture in various forms. Whereas a rich body of scholarly research exists on cinematic iterations of the Vietnam war as trauma, the discursive dynamics between memory, ideology and genre in relation to enemy image construction are somewhat underdeveloped. This article utilises genre studies, conflict studies and trauma theory in analysing how the representations of film villains interact with the construction of cultural trauma and national identity. Considering the American action thriller to be an important site for processes of commemoration and memorialisation, the discursive construction and formal articulation of national trauma are theorised within the genre. Additionally, a thematic and textual analysis was conducted of a sample of forty American action thriller films. The analysis illustrates how the genre operates through a structure of violent traumatisation and heroic vindication, offering a logic built on the necessity and legitimacy of revenge against a series of enemy-others.
Theorising from the Epicentres of Our Agency, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa
Bibi Burger, Motlatsi Khosi, and Lavinia Brydon
In this co-authored review-reflection, we discuss the African Feminisms 2019 conference, offering a snapshot of the vital and emboldening African feminist work being conducted by researchers, cultural producers and creative practitioners at all levels of their careers, as well as a sense of the emotional labour that this work entails. We note the particular, shocking event that took place in South Africa just prior to the conference informed the papers, performances and ensuing discussions. We also note that the conference and many of its attendees advocated for a variety of approaches (and more than one feminism) when seeking to challenge power.
Queer Feminist Film Curation and the Freedom to Revolt
So Mayer and Selina Robertson
During summer 2018, Club Des Femmes (CDF), in collaboration with the Independent Cinema Office funded by the British Film Institute (BFI), curated a UK-wide touring season of films considering the aftermath of May 1968. ‘Revolt, She Said: Women and Film after ’68’ comprised nine feature films and eight accompanying shorts, exploring the legacy of 1968 on contemporary feminisms, art and activism transnationally. In this article, two members of CDF unpack the queer feminist ethics and affects of the tour, through the voices of multiple participants, and framed conceptually by Sara Ahmed’s ‘willful feminist’ and Donna Haraway’s ‘staying with the trouble’.
Nine years of continuous conflict in Syria have borne witness to various atrocities against civilians, some of which amount to war crimes. Most of the involved parties have committed such atrocities, but the Government of Syria (GoS) and its allies remain at the top of the list of perpetrators. Out of a population of 21 million in 2010, more than half a million Syrians were killed as of January 2019 with more than 13 million displaced either inside the country, in neighbouring countries or elsewhere. Moreover, civilian infrastructures, including but not limited to health, have been severely affected, resulting in interrupted services and suffering. Looking at patterns of these atrocities, timing of occurrence, and consequences, could allow us to draw conclusions about motivations. While the GoS maintains these attacks were against combating civilians, we argue that civilians and civilian infrastructure were military and strategic targets, rather than collateral damage to the attacks committed by the GoS and its allies. The motives behind attacking civilians may be related to military gains in imposing submission and surrender; whereas others may be linked to long-term goals such as forced displacement and demographic engineering. This paper argues, supported by several examples throughout the course of the Syrian conflict, that GoS has used a five-point military tactic with targeting healthcare being at the heart of it. This military tactic has been extremely effective in regaining most opposition strongholds at the expense of civilian suffering and health catastrophe.
In 1999, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) published an extensive account of genocide in Rwanda, Leave None to Tell the Story. Based on interviews and archival work conducted by a team of researchers and written primarily by Alison Des Forges, Leave None to Tell was quickly recognised as the definitive account of the 1994 genocide. In the ensuing two decades, however, much additional research has added to our understanding of the 1994 violence. In this paper, I assess Leave None to Tell the Story in light of the research conducted since its publication, focusing in particular on three major challenges to the analysis. First, research into the organisation of the genocide disputes the degree to which it was planned in advance. Second, micro-level research into the motivations of those who participated disputes the influence of ideology on the genocide. Third, research has provided increasing evidence and details of violence perpetrated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). I contend that despite these correctives, much of the analysis continues to hold up, such as the role of national figures in promoting genocide at the local level, the impact of the dynamics of local power struggles on the violence, and the patterns of violence, including the effort after the initial massacres to implicate a wide portion of the population. Finally, as a member of the team that researched and helped write Leave None to Tell, I reflect on the value of this rare sort of research project that engages human rights organisations in an academic research project.