The Spectral Wound: Sexual Violence, Public Memories, and the Bangladesh War of 1971
Subjectivities of War Heroines: Victim, Agent, Traitor?
This chapter examines how beyond the rhetoric of heroism and testimonies, the authenticity of a “true” birangona is constructed through an interrogation of her subjectivity. Through an intricate ethnographic examination of life trajectories of birangonas who have not experienced public exposure, the chapter explores the various gendered understandings of the birangona as victim, agent, or traitor. It shows how an acceptably traumatic birangona is determined by differential values of personhood, embedded in gendered and classed narratives of middle-class sensibilities. When birangonas are referred to as collaborators and sex workers by communities and officials, there is an implicit suggestion that rape is an erotic encounter. This suspicion, distrust, and speculation toward the war heroines comb/hide the ambiguity that exists toward the transgressed sexuality of the birangonas while combing/searching for the horrific victim narrative of the war heroines.