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Something Gleaming

Exemplary Resistance and the Shadows of Complicity

Bronwyn Leebaw

Abstract

What kinds of lessons can be learned from stories of those who resisted past abuses and injustices? How should such stories be recovered, and what do they have to teach us about present day struggles for justice and accountability? This paper investigates how Levi, Broz, and Arendt formulate the political role of storytelling as response to distinctive challenges associated with efforts to resist systematic forms of abuse and injustice. It focuses on how these thinkers reflected on such themes as witnesses, who were personally affected, to varying degrees, by atrocities under investigation. Despite their differences, these thinkers share a common concern with the way that organised atrocities are associated with systemic logics and grey zones that make people feel that it would be meaningless or futile to resist. To confront such challenges, Levi, Arendt and Broz all suggest, it is important to recover stories of resistance that are not usually heard or told in ways that defy the expectations of public audiences. Their distinctive storytelling strategies are not rooted in clashing theories of resistance, but rather reflect different perspectives on what is needed to make resistance meaningful in contexts where the failure of resistance is intolerable.