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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 5: Transitory Transmissions of Memory in Argentina and Uruguay: The Ebbs and Flows of the Escrache and its Recent Iterations


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Transitory Transmissions of Memory in Argentina and Uruguay: The Ebbs and Flows of the Escrache and its Recent Iterations

You also must know that nothing lasts in this country. But you also must know that in Argentina there is no reckoning. Here no one ever pays. —Nathan Englander1

‘Children, Never look Back!’ and this meant that we must never allow the future to be weighed down by memory. For children have no past, and that is the whole secret of the magical innocence of their smiles. —Milan Kundera2

This chapter turns attention to the collective memory endeavours undertaken by members of the ‘post-dictatorship generation’, a term employed by Ana Ros for the generational grouping comprised of individuals who reached adulthood during the aftermath of dictatorship.3 Born before and during the onset of dictatorship, they had limited direct experience and personal memories of this historical period. Yet, since the 1990s, these individuals have emerged as protagonists in the struggles for justice and memory, joining the Argentine and Uruguayan human rights communities in commemorative rituals, such as the 24 March demonstration in Argentina and the Marcha del ← 199 | 200 → Silencio which takes place every 20 May in Uruguay. Members of the post-dictatorship generational unit have also participated in and supported fixed and permanent memorial initiatives, including the ESMA ‘space for memory’ (see previous chapter for H.I.J.O.S.’s stance on the ESMA). However, this chapter turns to commemorative sites...

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