Where the Genocide Was, Shall the Political Subject Be

Where the Genocide Was, Shall the Political Subject Be

monument group

Grupa Spomenik believes that the genocide is fully speakable, but that politics and critique of ideology are the only proper languages in which it can be spoken.

Contemporary forensic science, at the forefront of which is the forensic DNA analysis, is capable of counting and identifying the victims of genocide. By reassociating the corporeal remains of those who have been executed, it posits case numbers, which administer the following nexuses: place-identity; bone-identity; DNA-identity; skeletal quantification-identity; individual identity-identified missing person.

Beyond or beneath the realm of the personal, the process of administering the data that have been collected also affects the socio-political status of the victims of the genocide who are now renamed “identified missing persons.” Specifically, the dominant ideological framework within which the contemporary forensic science operates tends to downplay the properly political dimension that the victims of the genocide embody. The mechanisms of assigning various identities to the victims — their ideological interpellation — uncritically affirm the categories of contemporary particularist identity politics (ethnicity, religion) and thus sacrifice the victims of the genocide.

In the case of the Bosnian war atrocities, initial scientific processing of the victims’ corporeal remains is supplemented with their exclusive symbolization through the essentializing ethno-religious discourses. As the process of administering the trauma proceeds from identifying a victim’s remains to affirming their ethno-religious identity through the burying ritual, the socio-symbolic meaning lacking in the forensic analysis and enumeration of the corporeal remains is recuperated in the politically reductivist act of their posthumous “islamicization.” The victims’ identities are thereby homogenized, fixated, and, ultimately, deprived of agency; the thoroughly ruptured social fabric is sutured solely according to the essentializing, distributive, and divisive principles of identity politics.

In the final analysis, the logic which the scientific and ethno-religious discourses follow when they posthumously construct the identities of those who have been executed in Srebrenica, complements the logic applied by the politics of terror which, in order to commit genocide, first had to invent the non-existent, homogenized object of threat/hatred: the “militant Muslim fundamentalist”. This ethno-religiously defined antagonist was thus criminalized and outlawed, in order to then be also physically destroyed. In the post-war context, contemporary scientific and religious institutions tend to holophrase the politics of terror — retroactively, sometimes explicitly and at other times implicitly, they give legitimacy to the ideological construct that are the “eternal and insurmountable” ethnic differences between peoples of Bosnia and Hercegovina (and the former Yugoslavia at large).

Grupa Spomenik believes that the genocide is fully speakable, but that politics and critique of ideology are the only proper languages in which it can be spoken. One has to begin in the ditch, so to speak, in an open grave, in the holes of the torn social fabric which scream for a radical political confrontation with the status quo maintained by the process of re-association. We intervene in the process of administering genocide by naming the identification case number of the ‘missing person’ as a Matheme which disrupts the holophrasing of the science and the politics of terror thus maintaining the constitutive gap of politics open. For throughout the entire process of forensic analysis, quantification, and identification, an unpleasant surplus remains: the corporeal surplus that cannot be identified, quantified, buried, or sacralized — the surplus of debased matter, of scattered, excess bones! This unpleasant, radically inassimilable, material remainder opens up the real space of politics. It offers itself as, literally, the ground for a process of subjectivization that would not be identity-bound, and that would demand a different sort of memory-politics. We do not know the proper name of this political subjectivization tied to the non-identifiable corporeal remainder, but we do know that its mandate is to interrupt the ‘parallel convergence’ of the contemporary constructions of identity and the politics of terror.

Spomenik is centered on a simple hypothesis: no remembrance without the political subject. Such is the first step towards a truly political construction correlative to the “unidentified remainder of the genocide”.

Grupa Spomenik (Damir Arsenijević, Pavle Levi, Milica Tomić, Branimir Stojanović)


January, 2009


Mathemes of Re-association is a unique and novel platform by Grupa Spomenik wherein artists, theorists and activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia jointly facilitate public discussions of genocide in Srebrenica. ‘Mathemes of Re-association’ insist that it is only possible to talk about and remember genocide — politically.

Drawing on psychoanalysis, philosophy, theory, anthropology and forensic archaeology, Grupa Spomenik constructs a language in which each participant in a discussion may position her or himself politically in relation to genocide. Through a series of workshops, lectures and an editorial board that has developed a newspaper in the exhibition site, Grupa Spomenik critically engages with all ideological mechanisms — local, regional, and international — which both participated in the genocide and have perpetuated it for almost 14 years.

The forthcoming publication of a newspaper will further create a space of new sociality — in exchanges with victims and perpetrators; international actors and ethno-national governments; academics and activists, what is to be done with the everydayness of genocide will be discussed in the context where dominate a mute fascination with the horror of genocide, resignation to the status quo or an outright disbelief.

Amidst resigned and ritualised commemoration of genocide on all levels — local, regional and European — ‘Mathemes of Re-association’ insist on hope by producing and practicing what is impossible today both in Europe and in capitalist ethno-nationalist states succeeding Yugoslavia: a new politics, with the living and the dead, that is beyond racist mono/multi-cultural demands.

The Group Monument enables artists, theorists and activists from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to collaborate outside of dominant protocols of international organisations, European cultural policies, inter-state cooperation and cooperation on how to enact emancipatory gestures in the fields of arts and theory to impact productively on everyday lives under the post-genocide condition. People gathered around this initiative live their politics across cultures: in the context where all discussions of genocide are reduced to cultural and ethnic differences, they establish and practice different modes of belonging and solidarity other than ethno-cultural, which is the imperative posed by both new ethnic states and the European Union. In short, the thesis o the group is that the position which insists on cultural diversity in witnessing to genocide merely perpetuates genocide.

The genocide in Srebrenica is a European legacy. Today, genocide is something that cannot be remembered and cannot be forgotten either. European, regional and local actors do not know how to deal with genocide precisely because their policies belong to mere management of post-genocide condition, rather than its politicisation.

Grupa Spomenik, through its work on ‘Mathemes of Re-association’, sends a message to all these actors to rejoice: in the context of their inability to remember genocide, it posits politics that burst through the deadlocks of: victims taking on the identification imposed on them by the perpetrators of genocide; and ritualization on all levels whose aim is to administer oblivion rather than politically productive witnessing.

Grupa Spomenik (Damir Arsenijević, Ana Bezic, Rozita Dimova, Jasmina Husanovic, Pavle Levi, Branimir Stojanović , Milica Tomić)


March, 2009.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 18th, 2010 at 4:45 pm
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