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Testimonio and representation: An analysis of articles about women workers in Nicaraguan free trade zones
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Ethnology.
2005 (English)In: Politics conference: Sixth Essex Graduate Conference in Political Theory ‘Difference, borders, others’, 2005Conference paper (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The following presentation discusses representation and testimonio in Swedish information on Nicaraguan women workers that has been produced by so called ‘development workers’. In Spanish the word testimonio is literally translated as ‘testimony’, as in the act of testifying or bearing witness in a legal or religious sense. In articles such as “The slave market in Nicaragua is growing” and “Karla – an ordinary robot” the journalist and development worker, Victoria Myrén, translates and mediates stories by women workers in Nicaraguan free trade zones for Swedish speaking readers. The articles express a sense of urgency to communicate experiences of repression and a desire to represent the way marginalized positions are used to legitimate capitalist recolonizing. In an attempt to demonstrate the suffering of women within the free trade zones, the articles position the reader as a jury in a courtroom listening to close descriptions of violations. The story of Karla Manzanares (translated and mediated by Myrén) depicts colonial domination, economic exploitation, sexism and racism.

In this paper I argue that by speaking out, re-establishing a ‘voice’, Karla is also re-inscribing a subordinate position in society. The contradictions inherent in the project of representing the subaltern and simultaneously deconstructing the discourses that constitute the subaltern are evident. As Gayatri Spivak has pointed out, the recovery of the ‘voice’ of the subaltern also entails its erasure, since the mode of representation given in testimonio is no longer located in the space of subalternity but is instead more like a ‘ventriloquist’s dummy’.

Karla’s written destiny stand for something inhuman happening in a country far away. The image of the tragic woman worker capture our fears. Like a safe place to contain horrible things in the world, she becomes a projection of desire for the solution of insoluble conflicts. These stories about Karla and other women workers are emancipatory actions yet they also act as surfaces of projection for desire, disgust and anger. This paper therefore explores the fine balance between mediating testimonios and reconstructing an image of Nicaraguan woman as the Other, as a negative mirror to the idea of white, western (Swedish) women.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
testimonio, representation, solidarity, subaltern
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-30182OAI: diva2:280389
Difference, Borders, Others,held at the University of Essex on Friday 13th and Saturday 14th May 2005
Available from: 2009-12-09 Created: 2009-12-09 Last updated: 2012-11-16Bibliographically approved

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