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The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working-Class Neighbourhood

The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working-Class Neighbourhood

Lindsay DuBois
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  • Book Info
    The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working-Class Neighbourhood
    Book Description:

    DuBois traces how state repression and community militancy are remembered in a neighborhood in Buenos Aires and how the tangled and ambiguous legacies of the past continued to shape ordinary people's lives years after the collapse of the military regime.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8211-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 3-19)

    The Argentine dictatorship of 1976 to 1983, known officially as the Process of National Reorganization (el proceso), set out to transform Argentine society. Employing every means at its disposal, from the rampant violation of human rights to union-busting to regressive economic policies, the dictatorship aimed to create its own particular kind of order, and in the process paved the way for a neoliberal economy. This book uses ethnography and oral history to explore the lasting impact of this project for some of the working-class people who lived through it. More specifically, it examines the politics of the past in a...

  6. Chapter 2 ‘This Is Not a Shanty Town’
    (pp. 20-44)

    It took me a while to find my way to José Ingenieros. I had resolved to find a working-class location from which to examine the issues that puzzled me. This task proved more difficult than I anticipated, however. In retrospect, I believe part of the trouble arose precisely from the processes of social atomization that I seek to explore here. I was looking for a community organization that might provide a point of entry, but although I encountered several possible sites, my contacts felt the community groups were too fragile to receive me, and in fact at least one subsequently...

  7. Histories

    • Chapter 3 The Toma, Its Origins, and the Early Years, 1968–1976
      (pp. 47-84)

      Most residents of José Ingenieros begin the tale of their neighbourhood with the squatter invasion, or thetoma,as it is known locally. In the early days of the 1973 democratic period, thousands of predominantly shanty town dwellers took possession of the nearly empty housing. Often seen as the neighbourhood’s proudest moment, thetomaserves as a dramatic origin story particular to the community, but it also represents a point of contact with national history. Through thetoma,residents of José Ingenieros can see themselves as active participants in processes of national political importance. On prompting, they saw it as...

    • Chapter 4 Repression and Reorganization, 1976–1982
      (pp. 85-112)

      When we think of the last Argentine dictatorship, certain images come to mind: unmarked green Ford Falcons occupied by sinister plainclothed military men; the kerchiefed mothers of the disappeared walking in silent vigil around the Plaza de Mayo; the 1978 World Cup soccer tournament, perhaps, and the rumours of human rights violations that circulated throughout it; a pointless war in the South Atlantic. These images are accurate enough, but they are also partial. They fall short of describing the quality and character of life under the regime known as the Process of National Reorganization. The activities these pictures conjure up...

    • Chapter 5 After Reorganization, 1982–1992
      (pp. 113-130)

      The initial phase of the new democratic period was very much about theproceso.Euphoria was manifest in the mass rallies preceding the elections: between one-and-a-half and three million ecstatic citizens attended the last two rallies in the capital (CISEA 1984:428). Some commentators have characterized the years after theprocesoprimarily in terms of the political consolidation of democracy. By the time I arrived in José Ingenieros in 1991, it was taken for granted (most of the time) that Argentina had, and would continue to have, a formal democracy. The condition of the economy represented a much more pressing concern....

  8. Memories

    • Chapter 6 The History Workshop: An Exercise in Popular Memory
      (pp. 133-157)

      Local historical knowledge in José Ingenieros is fragmented for the same reasons that social networks were disarticulated by recent events and processes. For many reasons, not least political, people in José Ingenieros seem to have rarely discussed the past among themselves. This fact poses a theoretical and methodological problem: how might one proceed to look at popular memory – that is a shared ‘common sense history’ (Popular Memory Group 1992) in Jose Ingenieros? For members ataller de memoria(history/memory workshop), one solution was to paint a mural. The mural, like the workshop that produced it, calls our attention to the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • Chapter 7 Narrative Truths
      (pp. 158-177)

      In thetalkrespeople collectively thought through and worked out a local history. The workshop was an explicit attempt to remember collectively. How, why, and with what success this was done casts some light on the social production of memory in Jose Ingenieros. The choices members of thetalleresmade are telling: to put an optimistic spin on local history, and to leave theprocesoas a recognizable period out of the mural altogether. Such choices merit further consideration. In this chapter, we turn our attention to the significance of these kinds of choices, some of them very public, some...

    • Chapter 8 Of Memory, Trash, and Politics
      (pp. 178-204)

      The past is alive in José Ingenieros, even when it is neither discussed nor acknowledged. The shared experiences of the last three decades live on not only in the more obvious senses of what people have learned and what they know, but also in friendships and enmities, in confidence and mistrust. Gavin Smith (1991) has argued that community dialogue for the rebellious Peruvian peasants he worked with is often expressed in the language of contention: that the passion of disagreements often suggests the depth of people’s connection, of their sense that something very important is at stake. For the analyst...

    • Chapter 9 Conclusion: The Weight of History
      (pp. 205-213)

      By telling the story of Jose Ingenieros, relating how people there recount their history, and by considering the presence of the past in the neighbourhood, I have tried to examine how political-economic processes such as dictatorship and economic restructuring affect people and social life. This story matters because the people in José Ingenieros and working-class Argentines more generally matter – even though they are increasingly considered marginal to their country’s plans and prospects. This account also casts light on the nature of political, economic, and cultural processes with much wider effects.

      The story of José Ingenieros also shows how culture is...

  9. Epilogue
    (pp. 214-220)

    I am writing this epilogue from Buenos Aires in 2001, where I have returned for fieldwork on a new project. The news is full of anotherajuste.The most recent negotiations with foreign lenders produced loans at credit card rates (between 14 and 16 per cent) (Restivo 2001). A new economic crisis is in full swing. Surprisingly, although Menem¹ was replaced by a centrist coalition (made up mostly of the Radical Party and left Peronists) under President Fernando de la Rúa in 1999, Domingo Cavallo had recently been asked to join this new (and supposedly quite different) government as a...

  10. Appendix A: Peronist Identities
    (pp. 221-229)
  11. Appendix B: Chronology
    (pp. 230-232)
  12. Glossary
    (pp. 233-236)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 237-262)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 263-278)
  15. Index
    (pp. 279-284)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 285-286)