Remembering Torture, Returning to Côn Đảo, and the Tradition of “Pain-Taking”

  • Rivka Syd Eisner
Part of the Contemporary Performance InterActions book series (CPI)


Chapter  4 is concerned with remembering torture and ethical witnessing. Eisner recounts conversations with cô Định and cô Xuân about: (1) the tradition of “pain-taking” and its challenges to established assessments of torture, (2) the women’s haunting, touristic return to Côn Đảo Prison where they were once incarcerated and tortured, (3) their practice of ethical relations with ghosts of war, (4) alternative forms of mourning and responses to trauma, and (5) Eisner’s resulting sense of witnessing as a process of unlearning. Cô Định and cô Xuân articulate pain-taking as a natural-national characteristic that one must bear and practice. At first Eisner wonders if the tradition is a problematic, disciplinary gender regime. Through listening, she comes to understand it as a practice of sustenance and empowerment for the veterans.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rivka Syd Eisner
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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