For Scarry, the obscene and pathetic drama of torture and power is relegated to the prisoner’s cell. For Mozambicans, by virtue of its public enactment, this drama comes to define the world at large. Scarry worked with political prisoners and Amnesty International Reports — all of whom are cast in state-sponsored institutional settings. Isolation from family and society defines their plight. Had Scarry worked in places where torture is conducted as public ritual, had she followed torture victims back into the community and seen their impact on all those who have knowledge of them, she might not have concluded so readily that pain is incommunicable. I do agree with her that pain can destroy formal language, but there are many “truths” and many ways of communicating them. […] Pain both undermines communication and communicates through a society at large. Because the infliction of pain creates an enemy, one rooted in a fraudulent claim to power, torture creates resistance to the regime by its very enactment.
Carolyn Nordstrom, A Different Kind of War Story (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997), pp. 170-71.
Rwanda 2004: Vestiges of a Genocide
Women of Color in America have grown up within a symphony of anger, at being silenced, at being unchosen, at knowing that when we survive, it is in spite of a world that takes for granted our lack of humanness, and which hates our very existence outside of its service. And I say symphony rather than cacophony because we have had to learn to orchestrate those furies so that they do not tear us apart. We have had to learn to move through them and use them for strength and force and insight within our daily lives. Those of us who did not learn this difficult lesson did not survive. And part of my anger is always libation for my fallen sisters.
‘The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism’, in Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1984), p. 129.
Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it, bringing about an immediate reversion to a state anterior to language, to the sounds and cries a human being makes before language is learned.
The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 4.