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State Repression and the Labors of Memory

Elizabeth Jelin
Judy Rein
Marcial Godoy-Anativia
Series: Contradictions
Volume: 18
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 188
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  • Book Info
    State Repression and the Labors of Memory
    Book Description:

    Elizabeth Jelin clarifies the debates about the nature of memory and, among many others, the issue of truth in testimony and traumatic remembrance. Her book exposes the consequences of repression for social processes in Latin America, and enriches our understanding of the conflicted nature of memory. As societies struggle to come to terms with the past this wise book offers guidance.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9560-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    Reading the newspapers in Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru at the turn of the millennium may sometimes resemble traveling through a time tunnel. In addition to the obvious economic, political, and police problems of the moment, the news headlines include a number of stories that reflect the persistence of a past that is everlasting and does not wish to pass: the comings and goings of Pinochet’s detention in London and Santiago, and his subsequent indictment (and acquittal on the basis of senility and mental health deficiencies) for crimes committed in Chile in 1973; the “truth trials” to clarify...

  6. One Memory in the Contemporary World
    (pp. 1-7)

    We live in an era of collectors. We record and save everything: pictures from childhood and souvenirs from grandmothers in private and family life, newspaper and magazine clippings referring to issues or events of interest, making up official and private archives of all kinds. The past is an object of cult in the West, and this displays itself in the marketing and consumption of various “retro” styles, in the boom of antiques and of historical novels. In the public sphere, archives are growing in numbers, commemorative dates proliferate, and there is a never- ending demand for memorial plaques and monuments.¹...

  7. Two What Memories Are We Talking About?
    (pp. 8-25)

    The draft title for this chapter was “What is memory?” Such a title invites a single and univocal definition of the term. Though not involving a logical contradiction, asking what memory is (in singular) may seem at odds with offering to study processes of memory construction, of memories in the plural, and of social disputes over memories, their social legitimacy, and claims to “truth.” This chapter attempts to advance some conceptual issues in order to offer some tools for further analytical and empirical steps. It does not pretend to be an exhaustive discussion of issues that, by their very complexity...

  8. Three Political Struggles for Memory
    (pp. 26-45)

    The past is gone, it is already de-termin(at)ed; it cannot be changed. The future, by contrast, is open, uncertain, and indeterminate. What can change about the past is itsmeaning, which is subject to reinterpretations, anchored in intentions and expectations toward the future.¹ That meaning of the past is dynamic and is conveyed by social agents engaged in confrontations with opposite interpretations, other meanings, or against oblivion and silence. Actors and activists “use” the past, bringing their understandings and interpretations about it into the public sphere of debate. Their intention is to establish/convince/transmit their narrative, so that others will accept...

  9. Four History and Social Memory
    (pp. 46-59)

    The relationship between memory and history is nowadays a central preoccupation within several fields of the social sciences. Debates and reflection on the subject are most extensive and intensive within the discipline of history itself, particularly among those scholars who, recognizing that the historian’s craft extends beyond the mere “reconstruction” of what “actually” happened, deploy more complex modes of analysis in their work. An initial complexity emerges from the recognition that what “actually happened” includes the subjective perceptions and experiences of social actors. Furthermore, historical knowledge includes interpretive processes, the construction and selection of the “facts,” and the selection of...

  10. Five Trauma, Testimony, and “Truth”
    (pp. 60-75)

    What can people who lived through “unbearable” situations say or tell about them? What ethical, political, and more generally human issues are involved? Debates about testimony pervade practically every disciplinary field, from literary criticism to the broader area of cultural critique, from philosophy to history, from political studies to psychoanalysis, sociology, and anthropology.

    Reflection and debate about the possibility and impossibility of bearing testimony, about the “truth,” the silences and lapses, and about the possibility of listening owe their origin and force in contemporary times to the Nazi experience and the debates that it has engendered. The abundant literature about...

  11. Six Engendered Memories
    (pp. 76-88)

    If we close our eyes and attempt to envision the “human” side of the dictatorships in the Southern Cone, one image dominates the scene: the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. Then, other women come into sight: theFamiliares,Abuelas,Viudas,Comadres(Relatives, Grandmothers, Widows, and Other Kin) of the disappeared or of political prisoners, denouncing the arrests and searching for their children (which in the image are usually sons), their grandchildren, their husbands, or partners. On the other side, we see the military in full display of their masculinity. There is a second image that emerges, specific to the Argentine...

  12. Seven Transmissions, Legacies, Lessons
    (pp. 89-102)

    Let me begin with some cases and images.

    Immediately following the end of World War II, some Jewish survivors were able to maintain (or recuperate) their private cultural lives, in which Yiddish occupied a central place. Their collective culture, however, was lost. “The massacre was not simply the destruction of a given community, the death of a specific person. It was the total abolition of a collectivity, a culture, a way of life, of that calledyiddishkeit” (Wieviorka 1998, 46). In this context, thetransmissionof ways of being and lifestyles to the new generations became extremely difficult, if not...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 103-106)

    Many open questions remain. In these concluding remarks, I want to take up an issue that, although frequently mentioned throughout the text, merits further discussion. The issue is that in addition to cultural and symbolic considerations, it is important to incorporate the analysis of institutions and the issues related to the democratic construction of citizenship. These issues are significant for an academic perspective; they are crucial and central for a book that wants to contribute to civic responsibility and action orientations.

    A central institutional problem is the assignment of responsibilities for the repressive events of the past. Who should assume...

  14. Appendix: A Chronology of Political Violence and Human Rights Movements
    (pp. 107-134)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 135-148)
  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 149-156)
  17. Index
    (pp. 157-164)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 165-165)