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Afterlives of Confinement

Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Postdictatorship Latin America

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    Afterlives of Confinement
    Book Description:

    During the age of dictatorships, Latin American prisons became a symbol for the vanquishing of political opponents, many of whom were never seen again. In the postdictatorship era of the 1990s, a number of these prisons were repurposed into shopping malls, museums, and memorials. Susana Draper uses the phenomenon of the "opening" of prisons and detention centers to begin a dialog on conceptualizations of democracy and freedom in post-dictatorship Latin America. Focusing on the Southern Cone nations of Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Draper examines key works in architecture, film, and literature to peel away the veiled continuity of dictatorial power structures in ensuing consumer cultures.The afterlife of prisons became an important tool in the "forgetting" of past politics, while also serving as a reminder to citizens of the liberties they now enjoyed. In Draper's analysis, these symbols led the populace to believe they had attained freedom, although they had only witnessed the veneer of democracy-in the ability to vote and consume.In selected literary works by Roberto Bolaño, Eleuterio Fernández Huidoboro, and Diamela Eltit and films by Alejandro Agresti and Marco Bechis, Draper finds further evidence of the emptiness and melancholy of underachieved goals in the afterlife of dictatorships. The social changes that did not occur, the inability to effectively mourn the losses of a now-hidden past, the homogenizing effects of market economies, and a yearning for the promises of true freedom are thematic currents underlying much of these texts.Draper's study of the manipulation of culture and consumerism under the guise of democracy will have powerful implications not only for Latin Americanists but also for those studying neoliberal transformations globally.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7806-0
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction: The Afterlife of Prisons
    (pp. 1-20)

    When thinking about transitions from dictatorship to neoliberal democracy in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, how do we critically analyze the transformations of time and place in cities, where the end of the dictatorships’ carceral imaginaries and the beginning of a postdictatorial consumerist life of new freedoms were most clearly seen? More specifically, how does analyzing the history of the life and afterlife of the different prisons and clandestine detention centers (CDCs) that were crucial to sustaining the dictatorships contribute to the historical understanding of the “post” of postdictatorship? I explore this problematic by focusing on the transformations of key prisons...

  2. 1 Prison-Malls: Architectures of Utopic Regeneration
    (pp. 21-55)

    When writing a spatial history of transitions to postdictatorship societies in Latin America, the word “opening” seems to offer a good starting point, as it traverses different discourses, habits, and languages, crystallizing the mood of the times. The notion of opening acts as a foundational matrix that implicitly highlights how the previous social dynamic was characterized by the idea of enclosure, evoking an image of a society imprisoned in a past from which it needed to flee. In the dominant languages of politics and mass media, opening (apertura) became a kind of order-word organizing a system of equivalences through which...

  3. 2 Literary Afterlives of the Punta Carretas Prison: Tunneling Histories of Freedom
    (pp. 56-98)

    How do the textual works that thematize the past of Punta Carretas Prison contribute to an understanding of the afterlife of confinement? Moreover, how do they differ from the architectural and critical work on the mall that was analyzed in the previous chapter? It should be noted that the majority of writings on Punta Carretas tend to focus on the site’s past as a prison, and on recreating the political prisoners’ massive prison break in September 1971, when 111 prisoners (106 of them political prisoners from the Movimiento de Liberación Nacional–Tupamaros [MLN-T]) fled Punta Carretas through a tunnel excavated...

  4. 3 The Workforce and the Open Prison: Awakening from the Dream of the Chilean Miracle in Diamela Eltit’s Mano de obra
    (pp. 99-124)

    In these remarks from Diamela Eltit’sEmergencias, language and place are central to Eltit’s reflection on the temporal placement of the coup and its aftermath, which are figured by two crucial spaces: the prison and the mall. In the first paragraph of the quote, historicity is connected to the image of the prison, which affects the narratability of the history of the whole century. At the same time, this mutilation of the possibilities of narrating a past emerges in the second paragraph of the quote in another spatial figure—the mall—referring to the limitations of literary language once it...

  5. 4 Freedom, Democracy, and the Literary Uncanny in Roberto Bolañoʹs Nocturno de Chile
    (pp. 125-151)

    Roberto Bolaño made these remarks after one of his first trips back to Chile after the end of the dictatorship, a trip that he described in interviews and articles as having caused him a sense of strangeness linked to the uncanny. In fact, one of the articles is given the ironic and ambiguous subtitle “A mi casa no más llego” (I just arrived home) that suggests a certain cynicism related to the experience of being “back home.” In the many accounts the writer gave of this visit, the nation is figuratively presented as a home/house that has turned into an...

  6. 5 Memorialistic Architectonics and Memory Marketing
    (pp. 152-175)

    A decade after the malling boom, memory itself became the object of a similar process, a kind of “memory boom.” Besides the creation of different Commissions of Memory, the promotion of memory as part of the marketing of the state-market can be seen in the project for the creation of a “MERCOSUR-Memory,” in which the regional market, promoted in the neoliberal context of the 1990s, starts to include memory as a tourist commodity, with the possibility of exchanging museum experiences and to obtain more profit.¹ Although I focus my analysis on the imagination of the clandestine in the transformation of...

  7. 6 It Goes without Seeing: Framing the Future Past of Violence in Postdictatorship Film
    (pp. 176-200)

    In previous chapters I analyzed how retaining the prison structure as the base and cultural heritage of the new mall created an optical problem in various different critical and literary discourses. Texts by Diamela Eltit, Fernández Huidobro, and Roberto Bolaño set up the relation between place and gaze in such a way as to show the prison and the consumer world as coimplicated in the regime of neoliberal freedom. I have focused on ways of imagining the borders that separate, differentiate, and also confuse the space of the market superimposed upon the prison, raising the question of who can see...