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51% #1645: How Objects From Violent Crimes Inform Traumatic Legacies

Laura Levitt
Courtesy of Laura Levitt
Laura Levitt

On this week’s 51%, we spend the show with gender and religion scholar Laura Levitt. You’ll hear her story of rape, and while not graphic, please be forewarned. She hopes more federal attention is paid to unprocessed rape kits.

On a November evening in 1989, Laura Levitt was raped in her own bed. Her landlord heard the assault taking place and called 9-1-1, but the police arrived too late to apprehend Levitt’s attacker. When they left, investigators took items with them — a pair of sweatpants and more   and a rape exam was performed at the hospital. However, this evidence was never processed. Decades later, Levitt returns to these objects, viewing them not as clues that will lead to the identification of her assailant, but rather as a means of engaging traumatic legacies writ large. Her latest book, “The Objects That Remain,” is equal parts personal memoir and an examination of the ways in which the material remains of violent crimes inform our experience of, and thinking about, trauma and loss.

And considering artifacts in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and evidence in police storage facilities across the country, Levitt’s story moves between intimate trauma, the story of an unsolved rape and genocide. Throughout, she asks what it might mean to do justice to these violent pasts outside the juridical system or through historical empiricism, which are the dominant ways in which we think about evidence from violent crimes and other highly traumatic events. Levitt is professor of Religion, Jewish Studies, and Gender at Temple University

That’s our show for this week. Thanks to Tina Renick for production assistance. Our executive producer is Dr. Alan Chartock. Our theme music is Glow in the Dark by Kevin Bartlett. This show is a national production of Northeast Public Radio. If you’d like to hear this show again, sign up for our podcast, or visit the 51% archives on our web site at wamc.org. And follow us on Twitter @51PercentRadio

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