AN ACOUSTIC REGISTER, TENACIOUS IMAGES, AND CONGOLESE SCENES OF RAPE AND REPETITION:

NANCY ROSE HUNT

ABSTRACT

This article argues for the importance of rewriting the conventional atrocity narrative about violence in King Leopold's Congo Free State in relation to the present, the ongoing war-related humanitarianism and sexual violence in the DRC. The central idea is to push beyond the shock and tenacity of the visual, the ubiquitous mutilation photographs that tend to blot out all else; and instead seek weaker, more fragile acoustic traces in a diverse archive with Congolese words and sounds. This sensory, nonspectral mode of parsing the archive tells us something new about the immediacy of violence, its duration in memory, and the bodily and reproductive effects of sexually torturing women. The sound of twisted laughter convulsed around forms of sexual violence that were constitutive of reproductive ruination during the rubber regime in Leopold's Congo. The work of strategically tethering the past to the present should not be about forging historicist links across time but about locating repetitions and difference, including differences among humanitarian modes and strategies in the early 20th and the early 21st centuries.

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