Background Image
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  17 / 152 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 17 / 152 Next Page
Page Background

Affect and History in Ninotchka Rosca’s

State of War



vomited her shame

both public and private,

the shame that had driven her to lash saints and horse with

equal cruelty and that which had driven her to embrace

the priest’s corruption until he found himself unable to

live without her contempt. (Rosca, 1988: 191; emphasis


Maya responds to her female heir by making her shame

accessible to the other. The proximity and actual contact of the

two bodies brings out the feeling of shame in such a way that the

out-pouring of feelings become a ritual of healing. At the moment

of the encounter, a Babaylan ritual of interpersonal connection

seems to be reenacted. The reader is reminded that this is not the

only time that a physical communion is conducted across

generations of women. Maya has done the same with her mother

on the eve of her wedding to her first husband the cook: “Through

her mother’s flesh, she had met her own grandmother who was

still raving against what the Spaniards had done” (Rosca, 1988:

191-192). Physical communion is thus a coded ritual of memory

replacing language and historiography. Yet retrieving the memory

of generations of women who suffered violation reopens the

wounds of violation, and brings back her shame in her complicity

with her own violation. The physical communion as a kind of

technology of memory is thus transformed into a scenario of

traumatic reenactment. Theorists of trauma have maintained that

the return to the traumatic is a way to counter the devastating

effects traumatic events impinging on the body and affect

(McWilliams, 2009: 151). Dominick LaCapra describes this

traumatic return as a process of acting out and working through:

“It requires going back to problems, working them over, and

perhaps transforming the understanding of them. Even when they

are worked through, this does not mean that they may not recur

and required renewed and perhaps changed ways of working

through them again” (as cited in McWilliams, 2009: 151). In

Maya’s case, the mark of trauma is not the violation, but the shame