Hypergendered Victims and Genderless Perpetrators: Journalistic Representations of Feminicide in Italy
Nicoletta Mandolini, Department of Italian
The concept of feminicide (‘femminicidio’) has been recently introduced to the Italian socio-political context and since 2012 a prolific theoretical debate on the topic has begun, both in traditional media and on the Internet. Following the theoretical and methodological framework of FCDA developed by Siegfried Jäger and Florentine Maier, the Italian debate on feminicide can be classified as a ‘discursive event’, a category referring to discussions that appear ‘on the discourse planes of politics and media intensively, extensively and for a prolonged period of time’ (2009: 48). If recognised as such, the national debate on feminicide should be considered capable of affecting more wide-ranging discourses (Jäger and Maier 2009: 49) and, in so doing, influencing the production, reproduction or subversion of societal power relationships (Fairclough and Wodak 1997: 258; Jäger and Maier 2009: 35).
The innovations introduced by the theoretical debate on feminicide have affected the media coverage of intimate partner killings (the most common type of femicide in Italy). Recent research has demonstrated, in particular, that old journalistic practices, like that of defining femicide as ‘murders of passion’ or sudden bursts, have consistently decreased (Giomi 2015). Nevertheless, specific stereotypical portrayals persist, due to the always problematic mainstreaming of feminist discourse (Boyle 2005: 83-84) and to the presence of ‘discursive limits’ (2009: 47) embedded in the same theoretical discussion of feminicide. Through the direct analysis of hard-copy and online newspaper articles covering two cases – the femicide of Stefania Noce (2011) and Sara Di Pietrantonio (2016) – this paper will discuss the ethical implications of traditional and renewed representations of feminicide.
What is really unspeakable?
Gendered editorial interventions in Rwandan genocide testimonies
Caroline Williamson, Department of French
Bearing witness to genocide is an aggressive act with the potential to challenge the status quo while also gaining acknowledgement for survivors’ pain and histories. Through their testimonies, survivors may therefore start to rebuild the two fundamental human drives of agency (self-protection, self-assertion and self-expansion) and communion (contact, openness and union) identified by David Bakan (1966). The Genocide Archive of Rwanda has collected hundreds of survivor testimonies, many of which have been translated from Kinyarwanda into English and some also appear in a published collection entitled We Survived: Genocide in Rwanda, edited by Wendy Whitworth (2006). Such a collection might be considered an important platform for survivors to gain a voice with transformative power, enabling them to communicate with, and contest the dominant perceptions of, the world beyond Rwanda.
Many Rwandans believe that the international community was influential in causing the genocide, that it refused to intervene during the genocide and that it has failed to acknowledge guilt. In contrast, the genocide is frequently portrayed in the West as ‘an inevitable and primitive process that had no rational explanation and could not be stopped by negotiation or force’ (Dowden, 2007). Although, in their testimonies, Rwandan survivors contest this version of events by speaking out and highlighting the failures of the international community, this paper will argue that interventions made by the editor of We Survived in fact have the effect of bolstering it. Moreover, the paper will demonstrate that, while the words of both men and women are altered in the published text, criticisms of the international community are censored to a greater extent in the testimonies of women than those of men. Relating such findings to the dominant trauma paradigm, which insists on trauma’s unrepresentability, the paper highlights the limitations of this view in a postcolonial context where survivors, particularly women, have to fight to be heard.