David Goldberg, a United States' scholar has aptly pointed out that
Classification is basically the scientific extension of the epistemological drive to place phenomena under category. The impulse to classify data goes back at least to Aristotle. However, it is only with the simplistic spirit of the seventeenth century and the Enlightenment that classification is established as a fundamental scientific methodology. So the seemingly naked body of pure acts is veiled in value (1993:49, in Martinez-Salazar, 2005: 39).
Racialized, gendered and classed hierarchies were enacted daily using law and they were also embedded in educational, religious and other institutional practices and became absolute true knowledge in the everyday world. This is the power of classifying people for its practice does not stop when racist, gendered and classed classifications cease to be legally and scientifically valid. Their legacies get reified over and over again. This is perhaps what Mrs. Soledad2, an elder Maya woman forced to live in poverty, was referring when she said:
2 Pseudonymous are used to protect women's identification.
Before this violence [modern state terror], as indigenous we were treated like pigs. We were totally humiliated. They didn't respect our dignity, the dignity that we had before the Spanish came. That dignity was erased with the violence (interview and informal conversations between June and August, 2002).
Mrs. Soledad added, "If an indigenous woman was raped by the soldiers, who cared? Nobody. And, why? Because this poor woman was a dog for them" (Ibid). The rape of women by established armies, death squads and other forms of organized violence, however, is a silent reality in many contexts, including those in conflict. Not many women in Guatemala talk about this issue; some do only after a process through which some levels of rapport are built.
Catalina, a widow by state terror, who is now a single mother with six kids and barely surviving, posed the most difficult dilemmas to me as a researcher because there I was in Guatemala asking questions on human rights and citizenship discourses, and there she was interrogating from her life those discourses. She said, "I don't know what democracy is and never think about having rights. How could you think about it when your children barely eat, when they are sick and do not go to school?" Many think these words are only testimonial words. For me they are at the heart of the top questions that many academics, politicians and policymakers should be pursuing because reflections such as Catalina's are noticing the abyss between the theory of human rights and their practice. She, from her social experiences, is making this gap visible. And that is why her words are not only a testimony. They are hard-core knowledge.
Dolores, another widow of state terror also made detectable the abyss between hegemonic discourses of human, citizenship rights and democracy when she noted,
... the written law keeps up with everything. It can have beautiful words about me being Indigenous and having rights that respect my 'beautiful' clothes and my language. But, miss," she said, "tell me what is the good if this clothing and this language [if they] do not guarantee me a decent job? I cannot even find a job as a maid because gringas (North American and European people) and ladinas (non-indigenous women) who pay more cannot hire me because they cannot speak my language and I cannot speak Spanish. So, miss, written rights are beautiful but they mean nothing if you do not have food on your table and your house is only these pieces of cardbox (interviews 2002).
Again, Dolores is pointing to another gap, the gap between formal politics and real democracy and the gap between signed peace and concrete meaningful peace. These Maya women are telling without using these words that meaningful peace and democracy cannot be very effective if poverty, extreme poverty, are not even timidly addressed. They will be severely limited.
At the end Magdalena, a community worker who is still doing a lot of work with women and Indigenous peoples in her community and who is also a widow who never knew where the whereabouts of her kidnapped husband (by state forces), provided this chilling truth,
I do not understand how, if all of us have the right to live with dignity, those who were committed to fighting poverty, illiteracy, and illnesses were killed? Did they have rights? Were they citizens? Were they considered human[s}? (Interviews 2002).
Many people have difficulties in listening to these serious interrogations; certainly these interrogations are not central within hegemonic fields of scholarship and of policy-making. Fortunately, there are several scholars (still at the margin of academia) and activists who continue the struggle to produce less partial knowledge. There are also good signs from some established scholars who are retrieving forgotten knowledge like the one produced by people like Frantz Fanon and W.E. Dubois, José Carlos Mariátegui and countless African, Asian, Indigenous, Latin American and African women who were not considered as knowledge producers. All of them long ago asked who were the human in humanism, and now I add to this questioning, who is the human in human rights discourses? And what do we mean in practice by liberty, freedom, democracy and equality? What is the real meaning of all of this?
Giorgio Agamben (1998) an Italian philosopher is trying to come up with new thinking about human hierarchies and the power behind making some lives unworthy of living. He is telling us that sometimes those who revere law for the sake of revering it forget that law is also a human invention that in some context has been used to oppress and to exclude those invented as sub-human and infrahuman. Applying some of Agamben's insights I say that we cannot continue to divide humanity between lives that can be protected and those who are not only abandoned but also vilified, persecuted and exterminated and still believe that we live in democracy.
Perhaps some of you may be thinking, why is she telling this in a very celebratory meeting? I would like to express that there is a purpose in seeing paradoxes in life; in celebration there is critical reflection and in certainty there is uncertainty. Thus, instead of rejecting paradoxes and ambiguities we should embrace and work with them.
The SYLFF vision has as its core a commitment to the formation of new leaders that will be able to transcend ethnic, religious and other boundaries, but I think that before transcending diversity and difference is absolutely necessary to recognize their fundamental importance to the enrichment of human, cultural and bio-diversity, which in turn is essential for the survival of all of us and the planet. We can only transcend social barriers and boundaries when we began to practice on everyday basis the acceptance, with respect, of diversity and difference of all peoples and cultures. This is the challenge I want to leave with you today before I make a final reflection induced by another Maya's analysis. Esperanza a longstanding community worker said that in Guatemala one of the most persecuted rights has been the right of people to organize and struggle against oppression and inequality. "In Guatemala people have been persecuted and killed because they wanted to have some dignity, therefore, they/we organized" Esperanza stated. Then she added, "The constitution indicates in written words that all people must have decent houses, jobs, education, health care, etc. We Indigenous also wanted to be treated with respect and dignity as we are, with our cultures, dresses and languages. And this was punished with death." How can human rights and democracy be abstractly celebrated while they are so often denied to many? The right to organize for transformative and progressive social change as Esperanza has aptly reminded us, is a fundamental human right.
Interrogating knowledge and practices we take for granted and questioning who is the human in humanism and human rights discourses is a humble tribute to my father who was also killed in Guatemala by the militarized state supported by international powers in the name of defending national security; whose national security I might ask? It is also a humble tribute to my brother also killed, and to my mother who has suffered unnecessary pain. It is also a tribute to the faceless whom I never met but who were equally sacrificed.
I would like to encourage the SYLFF program and the Tokyo and Nippon Foundations to continue investing in the social sciences and humanities and to strengthen their vision for one day we can at least say, we did what we could to rethink humanity in practice and reject making some humans into sub-humans whose lives can be disposed. Investing in social sciences and in humanities will create new opportunities for Black students, Indigenous students, Gays, Lesbians, Transgendered, Transsexual and Two-Spirited students, and students with disabilities as well as to all of those who have been forgotten. Many of these women and men will contribute greatly to the improvement of the human and ecological conditions.
Thank you for listening with patience to what I had to say.
Mr. Goran Svilanovic
: (from text)
Thank you very much, Dr. Yokota, for your very kind words. Mr. Sasakawa, colleagues and friends from all different parts of the world, members of this community of SYLFF; I enjoyed listening to what Egla had to say which was very inspiring. However, what I'm going to address are issues and experiences quite different from Egla's topic and I believe you will find it interesting.
My background was teaching law at the University of Belgrade Law School until 1998, when for political reasons I was fired together with 10 other colleagues of mine. Interestingly enough, only two years later I became foreign minister; and another colleague who was fired became education minister. Others became dean of a private law school, dean of an institute of comparative law, an advisor to foreign minister, director of Diplomatic academy, ambassador to Switzerland and judge at the European Court for Human Rights, and president of the board of the national telecommunications system... This is what happened to these 10 people who got fired in 1998. So it seems firing us have been a bad decision of the government, and I'm grateful for that.
When I was fired, I worked closely with the non-governmental sector presiding over the Council of Human Rights in an organization called the Centre for Anti-War Action. I did so because in the process of collapsing and splitting of the former Yugoslavia there was a bloody war, and even today what many people, including myself, in a broader area of South East Europe are dealing with its consequences and putting efforts to overcome all of the flooded and difficult results of this war.
And then I went into politics. Believe it or not, I belong to a group of people who are saying only good things about politics. I would like to encourage people to join politics, to be part of the process, and I think that in spite of all one can say about politics, it is still a career in which you can be very creative and in which you can really bring about certain results. So I am campaigning to the Bosnian people to be part of the political processes, and they can do it in different ways. They can do it as I did it by joining the parties, changing parties, and going into parliament. They can also do politics in different ways, dealing with the social issues with non-governmental communities or organizations, and academia.
When I was awarded the SYLFF Prize in 2004, I was completing my term of office as foreign minister in three governments and in two countries because at the beginning of 2000 it was Yugoslavia, and the name changed, and the organization of the country changed into Serbia and Montenegro, as a state community. Actually I now come from Serbia because in 2006 there was a referendum in Montenegro and now they are two independent countries, Serbia and Montenegro.
While I was visiting Tokyo to receive the SYLFF Prize in 2004, I had already received communication from officials of the organization which I'm going to introduce to you today, which is called Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. I dare to say this is a masterpiece of German diplomacy, but technically speaking this is something that was launched in 1999, just after the war, as an attempt of European Union member countries together with a group of friends which were not in the EU and they were Japan, the USA, Canada, Switzerland, and Norway. These are the countries we address as "friends and founders of the Stability Pact for SEE". This was an attempt to approach the region of Southern and Eastern Europe (SEE), since 1999 until today, a very, very successful approach to different social problems and issues that were needed to be addressed in order to overcome atrocities, hatred, and war crimes, and introduce a policy of reconciliation to the whole region.
I would like to brief you on the results of the Stability Pact and what might be our future because now for almost three years, I have been dealing with this Stability Pact for SEE. It works between the European Union and the countries of the region. The Stability Pact is, in a way, a community effort that is trying to bring closer together the governments of the region and the European Union, and not only member countries that are trying to introduce a new quality of social, political, institutional and economic development in the region. When I say South East Europe these are the countries that I have in mind − Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova.
I'm still an MP in Serbia, so I am politically engaged in Serbia but not very active. We are going to have elections this Sunday and I'm not running for office; I won't be an MP or minister. I would like to spend the next several years dealing with the region where I have been in politics very much. Though invisible, I'm not in the national but regional politics and, therefore, a commuter to Brussels, and from Brussels to the countries in the region, working closely with the governments in the region trying to help in several fields.