chapter  6
The feminisation of catastrophe
Pages 15

Feminist works on personal narratives (see, for example, Personal Narratives Group 1989) argue for the centrality of women’s experiences and women’s autobiographies in the construction of gendered subjectivities. PNG argues that the feminist enterprise attempts to dismantle the traditional concepts of ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth’, which, though presented as ‘objective’, are primarily dominant white male concepts, and proposes replacing them with a ‘more fully human conception of social reality’ (PNG 1989:3). The call to reflexively listen to women’s voices, learn from women’s experiences and use women’s personal narratives as essential primary documents in reconstructing the social world (PNG 1989:4) is particularly crucial in analyses, from the location of women’s lives, of major catastrophes, where women’s experiences have been, at best, subsumed into male perspectives and, at worst, ignored on the pretext that catastrophic events are ‘too big’ to ‘do feminism’, or to attempt a gender analysis (see, for instance, Ringelheim 1990:144). Quite apart from the impossibility of understanding fully the

nature of genocidal projects without locating the experiences, but also the images, of women at the heart of the analysis, this chapter posits the centrality of women’s personal narratives in order to come to terms with and close the ‘memory gap’ in relation to catastrophic experiences.