Preface: “A Lot of History, a Severe History”
“A lot of history, a severe history” is an oft-cited reference made by the birangonas, which refers to their experiences in the conflict and postconflict context. This chapter shows that the public memory of wartime rape manifests and circulates in Bangladesh in three ways: first, the state category that designates the raped women as birangonas; second, an extensive archive of visual and literary representations dating back to 1971; third, human rights testimonies of poor and middle-class birangonas since the 1990s. It is incorrectly assumed by many that because Bangladesh is a “Muslim” country, the traditions and practices of Islam—and its assumed association with ideologies of gender, patriarchy, honor, and shame—ensure the preservation of silence about wartime rape. The ethnography instead highlights the various political and economic dynamics within which the public memory of wartime rape exists in Bangladesh.