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Fragile Memory, Shifting Impunity

Commemoration and Contestation in Post-Dictatorship Argentina and Uruguay


Cara Levey

Fragile Memory, Shifting Impunity is an interdisciplinary study of commemorative sites related to human rights violations committed primarily during dictatorial rule in Argentina (1976–1983) and Uruguay (1973–1985). Taking as a departure point the ‘politics of memory’ – a term that acknowledges memory’s propensity for engagement beyond the cultural sphere – this study shifts the focus away from exclusively aesthetic and architectural readings of marches, memorials and monuments to instead analyse their emergence and transformation in post-dictatorship Argentina and Uruguay. This book incorporates the role of state and societal actors and conflicts underpinning commemorative processes into its analysis, reading the sites within shifting contexts of impunity to explore their relationship to memory, truth seeking and justice in the long aftermath of dictatorship.
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Fragile Memory, Shifting Impunity would not have seen the light of day were it not for the immeasurable support, dedication and kindness of so many people. The seemingly sage advice of ‘turn your thesis into a book’ does not truly capture the vast amount of work that goes into converting thesis to book manuscript. Although this book has its roots in my Master’s thesis and in my Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded doctoral research (the former completed at the University of London, the latter at the University of Leeds), it has evolved into something quite different. This is, in part, because the objects and contexts under consideration are rapidly shifting, meaning that the book revisits the debates explored in my doctoral thesis, yet explores several new avenues of research.

This study is based on ethnographic research undertaken over a period of years in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, between October 2007 and September 2008, and March 2009 and August 2009. Funding was made possible by a fieldwork grant awarded by the AHRC and from Abbey Santander to carry out fieldwork in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. The Department of Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies at University College Cork generously funded my visit to Argentina and Uruguay in August 2013.

Without these periods of fieldwork, this project would lack nuanced insight into post-dictatorship memory. I would like to thank all my interviewees for their openness, advice and willingness to discuss the themes of this work. I...

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