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The Reappeared

The Reappeared: Argentine Former Political Prisoners

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 198
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  • Book Info
    The Reappeared
    Book Description:

    Between 1976 and 1983, during a period of brutal military dictatorship, armed forces in Argentina abducted 30,000 citizens. These victims were tortured and killed, never to be seen again. Although the history oflos desaparecidos, "the disappeared," has become widely known, the stories of the Argentines who miraculously survived their imprisonment and torture are not well understood.The Reappearedis the first in-depth study of an officially sanctioned group of Argentine former political prisoners, the Association of Former Political Prisoners of Córdoba, which organized in 2007.

    Using ethnographic methods, anthropologist Rebekah Park explains the experiences of these survivors of state terrorism and in the process raises challenging questions about how societies define victimhood, what should count as a human rights abuse, and what purpose memorial museums actually serve. The men and women who reappeared were often ostracized by those who thought they must have been collaborators to have survived imprisonment, but their actual stories are much more complex. Park explains why the political prisoners waited nearly three decades before forming their own organization and offers rare insights into what motivates them to recall their memories of solidarity and resistance during the dictatorial past, even as they suffer from the long-term effects of torture and imprisonment.

    The Reappearedchallenges readers to rethink the judicial and legislative aftermath of genocide and forces them to consider how much reparation is actually needed to compensate for unimaginable-and lifelong-suffering.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-6856-0
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 “The Battle of the Panties”
    (pp. 1-22)

    Argentina’s history of state terror is infamous: during the most recent military dictatorship, which lasted from 1976 to 1983, thirty thousand political dissidents were kidnapped, tortured, and “disappeared”¹ in secret concentration camps. The victims became known asdesaparecidos(the disappeared). In response to the fact that their children were sucked up²—as if the earth had opened up and swallowed the person whole—desperate families, who faced dead ends or death threats from state authorities, formed human rights organizations in search for their missing children. It took until 2005, for trials against former military officials to resume after a period...

  5. 2 “They Disowned Us Twice”
    (pp. 23-43)

    Former political prisoners were seen differently at different times. There were periods in which, as survivors of torture camps and prisons, they were regarded as victims worthy of national attention. At other times, as former guerrillas, they were seen as the cause, at least partly, for the violence that took place in Argentina during the 1970s and 1980s. Sometimes, they were even seen as the cause for earlier violence in the late 1960s, when popular resistance movements took the world over. In one period, survivors were seen as powerless victims, and in another, they were seen to be at fault...

  6. 3 Suspicion and Collaboration
    (pp. 44-70)

    Not all victims are the same. Take, for example, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which had difficulties in drawing lines between victims and perpetrators during apartheid, particularly since there were varying levels of innocence and guilt within each category (Borer 2003). Heroes became perpetrators, and perpetrators became victims. Some African National Congress members who were victims of gross human rights violations, including torture, were also accused of committing acts of violence in their fight for liberation. The activist, Winnie Mandela, who was also the second wife of South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, was banned and tortured under...

  7. 4 Solidarity and Resistance in Prison
    (pp. 71-107)

    Former political prisoners do not want to talk about torture. In 2008, a group of volunteer psychologists briefly presented themselves at one of AEPPC’s weekly meetings, offering free therapeutic services to the ex-presos in case the recent trial against former military officials unearthed old memories or created new challenges. It had been nearly three decades since the ex-presos were released from prison, and no one took them up on their offer. As AEPPC member Rosa Noto said in May 2008, after a weekly meeting, “All [psychologists] want to know about is how we were tortured, or if they can conduct...

  8. 5 Life After Prison Still Feels Like Imprisonment
    (pp. 108-144)

    “I could deal with being physically tortured, but what I couldn’t deal with was having been separated from my daughter [Ceci] and my husband,” said AEPPC member Alicia Staps. “It was very painful for me to not have been able to see Ceci during all of those years. To see her after she had gotten so big, walking and talking. She no longer recognized me” (Staps, November 2008). When asked about the lasting consequences of their imprisonment for their lives afterward, ex-presos’ answers were similar to Alicia’s in that they spent little time directly discussing the trauma they suffered from...

  9. 6 Post-Transitional Justice
    (pp. 145-155)

    Who counts as a victim and what counts as a violation are questions that determine how former political prisoners in Córdoba view the success of transitional justice measures. Legal and human rights scholars have regarded all that Argentina accomplished soon after the dictatorship ended—the truth commission, the historic Trial of the Juntas, and reparations—as evidence of a successful transitional justice process (Arthur 2009; Faulk 2012). Yet, the ex-presos remain dissatisfied with what the state had failed to do for survivors of state terrorism until recently. Ex-presos started organizing in the mid-2000s, in response to their economic and health...

  10. Epilogue
    (pp. 156-160)

    Several dramatic changes happened to the AEPPC since I left Argentina in 2009. During the years I observed the ex-presos, the AEPPC met on a regular basis, and the forty-five members who regularly attended, were in agreement over the group’s agenda and generally enjoyed a strong sense of camaraderie. The AEPPC formed officially in 2007; as stated in its bylaws, it was required to hold elections every two years for the positions of president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. When elections were held in 2009, tensions arose, but the ex-presos continued to work together, and in 2011, they became the...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 161-164)
    (pp. 165-168)
    (pp. 169-174)
    (pp. 175-176)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 177-182)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 183-184)