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Captive Women: Oblivion and Memory in Argentina

SUSANA ROTKER
Translated by Jennifer Fernch
Foreword by Jean Franco
Volume: 10
Copyright Date: 2002
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.cttts6gp
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  • Book Info
    Captive Women
    Book Description:

    Argentina is the only country in the Americas that has successfully erased the presence of Indians, Africans, and mestizos from its national story. In Captive Women, Susana Rotker exposes this concerted act of forgetting by looking at a historical phenomenon that has been expunged from the national record: the widespread kidnapping of white women by Argentine Indians in the nineteenth century. Cultural Studies of the Americas Series, volume 10

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9413-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Jean Franco

    “This atrocious solitude of rejection and oblivion obsesses me,” writes Susana Rotker in the first chapter of this book. She is referring to the fate of women captured in Indian raids before the Argentine interior was finally “pacified” in the 1870s, but she is also referring to the solitudes and silences of her own time—the disappearance of men, women, and children during the Argentine military regime that was in power from 1976 to 1983, and the silence of the victims of the Holocaust. A child of Jewish refugees, she was born in Argentina but grew up in Venezuela, a...

  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Chapter 1 AGAINST OBLIVION
    (pp. 1-19)

    I have no memory of my childhood because no story was ever told of it. That fact for a time disturbed my Argentine psychoanalyst until we both discovered that the lack of memories didn’t hide some unconfessable trauma. Unfortunate episodes from other eras surged forth during our sessions, but I could never fill the void in the long years of childhood, not even with the simple pleasure of an anecdote.

    My forgetfulness was so stubborn that, out of archaeological enthusiasm or a natural skepticism about happy childhoods, I tried every available recourse to fill the void: conversations with relatives and...

  6. Chapter 2 IN CONQUEST OF A WHITE NATION: THE ELITES
    (pp. 20-46)

    Argentina is the only country in Latin America that has determinedly and successfully erased the mestizo, Indian, and black minorities from its history and its reality. They have been omitted from national narratives and, in the early twentieth century, were purposely made to disappear from even census figures. In contrast to the rest of the continent, Argentina’s minorities have been erased from even collective memory: today no one seems to notice that in this white country there must always be a child in blackface in patriotic school plays or that the Indians are represented as some few nomads in the...

  7. Chapter 3 NO ONE MOURNS FOR CAPTIVES: THE SOLDIERS
    (pp. 47-76)

    The silence that covers the very existence of the Argentine captives of the nineteenth century is devastating: from the moment of the attack to today, captivity is synonymous with disappearance. The tales that exist are utterly insufficient to recuperate that reality or to reproduce in memory the experience of the encounter or confrontation between cultures, not to mention the nightmare that so many families lived on the internal frontier. This chapter is about the ramifications of silence; it tries to reconstruct the real situation of the captive women from the memoirs of soldiers on the frontier.

    The real captives—not...

  8. Chapter 4 FRONTIER BODIES: ESTEBAN ECHEVERRÍA’S LA CAUTIVA
    (pp. 77-97)

    Identity is a social construction, a creation, a system of interpretation or representation that is produced through the word, through images, through the repetition of collective rituals. The Bible describes this creative gesture of filling/creating the world: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

    I can find no better abstraction than the Bible’s with which to approach the foundation of a national literature with Esteban Echeverria’sLa cautiva(The captive [1837]), a poem...

  9. Chapter 5 THE RETURN OF THE FORBIDDEN: THE WOMEN WRITERS
    (pp. 98-117)

    There is a rape at the very origin of Argentina. Not the ritual rape of the subjugated indigenous woman by the Spaniard, but the reverse: the violation of a married, Catholic, Spanish lady by a chief of the pampa. At least that is what is told time and again through decades of literature that alludes to that origin as to sin: silencing it, covering it over with virtue, transforming it into something else.

    The legend is known by the victim’s name: Lucia Miranda, a sort of Spanish Helen of Troy who along with her husband, Sebastián, came to live in...

  10. Chapter 6 CAPTIVE TEXTS: THE ETHICS OF REPRESENTATION
    (pp. 118-128)

    The inhabitants of the frontier: Do they think in different ways according to their different ethnic cultures? Missionaries and soldiers of the last century used to affirm, in the best Enlightenment style, that the minds of Indians—also called “savages”—were so primitive that they were incapable of realizing certain discursive operations in thought. Anthropologists have claimed, in our own century, that such an incapacity is due not to an innate defect in comprehension, but to a different method of thought.¹ Cultural disparities also occur with regard to collective memory: “savages” and minorities don't have the same methods of memory,...

  11. Chapter 7 THE STORY OF A JOURNEY WITH NO RETURN
    (pp. 129-150)

    This section of this chapter about different voices of the frontier is dedicated to a narrative ofdesire to return.The majority of nineteenth-century travel narratives register only the vicissitudes of the journey out, the astonishment, the discoveries, the unexpected landscapes and cultures on the other side, in the realm of the Other or others. Thereturn journey,in contrast, implies a way of seeing different from that of someone who simply visits: it is the vision of someone who hasunderstoodso much that it has changed his language, the parameters of his understanding, and even the comfort he...

  12. Chapter 8 NEWS OF A DISAPPEARING WORLD
    (pp. 151-170)

    What do I recall from my readings ofUna excursión a los indios ranqueles?I know that this is the first text of nineteenth-century Argentine literature that dared include the voices of the Indians, that it is a text of limits, a representation of a world, of territorial and linguistic expansion: a journey to the internal frontier by a soldier-dandy who advances into barbarian territory wearing a red cloak and kid gloves, delighting in gastronomic descriptions while his soldier’s eye takes in locations and goods, assesses risks, projects maps. Soldier and tourist, the narrator journeys into the past—filling postcards...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 171-210)
  14. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 211-228)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 229-236)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 237-237)