VMJ1046 | Violence, Memory and Justice

Course Information

  • 2021-22
  • VMJ1046
  • 5-Year B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), LL.M.
  • V
  • Jul 2021
  • Elective Course

This seminar course is concerned with the relations between violence, memory and justice, particularly focusing on the ways in which accounts of violence are memorialized across genres of writing, and how practices of reading carry the double charge of violation and healing at the same time. Through a reading of academic, literary, visual and aural texts, the course will map responses to the question: what role does interpretation (practices of reading and writing) play in making certain incidents of violence become events, and to what use are the recorded memories of those events put (and by whom) to make claims of justice?

The readings for the course will be organized around the three themes that comprise its title. These readings will engage some specific forms of violence and the interpretive practices of memory-making and justice-seeking that have accompanied their aftermath. Broadly, these will include imperial/ colonial, sexual, genocidal, and revolutionary violence, framed by references to both known and lesser known historical and contemporary events, and the personalities of the authors/ artists who recorded these memories in their texts. To understand the relationship between violence and justice through the prism of memory (and the practices of the memory maker) the course will use the contestations between memory and history as a central motif of engagement. The course will train students to think critically about the ethics of reading and writing memorial accounts of everyday and extraordinary violence and the politics of bearing witness. The course aims to complicate the way in which the idea of violence tends to be categorized as a universal bad and that of justice as universal good by showing that it is how we remember (or are made to remember) that designs such normative imaginaries.

The course will be useful both for law students generally interested in the above-mentioned issues, and also for those specifically interested in questions of state accountability, the politics of memorialization, and the practices of bearing witness. Those interested in developing critical reading and writing skills will also find the course useful. Students who have already studied jurisprudence or legal theory will have some conceptual grounding in the matters that will be discussed.

Lectures will be conducted using visual aids like photography and cinema. A key pedagogical component will also be the use of the contemplative writing method where students will respond affectively to a piece of reading rather than instrumentally as an assignment. A major emphasis will be on learning methods of reading and writing texts.


Dr. Oishik Sircar

Visiting Faculty