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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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Chapter 2: A Tale of Two Transitions: Shifting Impunity in the Long Aftermath of State Repression


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A Tale of Two Transitions: Shifting Impunity in the Long Aftermath of State Repression

Nadie rinde cuentas, nadie brinda explicaciones. Cada crimen es una dolorosa incertidumbre para los seres cercanos a la víctima y también una advertencia para todos los demás. El terrorismo de estado se propone paralizar a la población por el miedo.

[Nobody is called to account, nobody offers explanations. Each crime brings painful uncertainty for the victim’s loved ones and also serves as a warning to everyone else. State terrorism aims to paralyze the population with fear.] —Eduardo Galeano1

The wide-reaching effects of the unprecedented human rights violations ushered in by Argentina and Uruguay’s respective coups of 1973 and 1976 have shaped the post-dictatorship periods profoundly. This chapter explores the human rights violations under consideration and the manifold ways in which they have been addressed by state and society, with the aim of elucidating the ‘shifting impunity’ intrinsic to this study. Although this chapter is primarily concerned with legal impunity (the failure to hold the perpetrators to account) and the ways in which successive post-dictatorship societies have addressed the past through political and judicial means, it also traces the broader cultural shifts that have taken place since the end of dictatorial rule and the ways in which questions of justice and impunity reverberate ← 43 | 44 → beyond the legal sphere. In this way, the chapter establishes the distinct yet comparable...

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