Jacqueline Rose, 10 October 2019
There is a risk in recounting these stories. To describe what is being done to these women may seem to reinforce their status as victims, embedding them further in an unjust world with no – or only a forced, one-way – exit. Yet not to do so is to be complicit with the women’s invisibility, to cultivate the ‘cultural production of ignorance’ which helps keep national identity in place. Strange undercurrents of fascination pulse through the worst stories of our time. Think of the images of the little girl wailing at the US border; or of three-year-old Alan Kurdi cradled in the arms of the stricken man who in September 2015 discovered his body washed up on a Turkish beach. Or the image of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his daughter, not yet two years old, drowned as they tried to cross into the US. The Guardian headlined one of its reports about Alan Kurdi: ‘Shocking images of drowned Syrian boy show tragic plight of refugees.’ ‘Tragic’ and ‘plight’ should give us pause: they make the agony timeless, turn the drowned child into an object of raw pity, obfuscate the human agency, historical choices and wilful political decisions that lead to such outcomes.