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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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Conclusion: Fragile Memory, Shifting Impunity: Fissures, Entrepreneurs and Sites in Dialogue


Gone. Buried. Covered by the dust of defeat – or so the conquerors believed. But there is nothing that can be hidden from the mind. Nothing that memory cannot reach or touch or call back. Memory is a weapon. —Don Mattera1

This book opened with reference to two recent controversies surrounding the Argentine ESMA and Uruguayan Memorial to Disappeared Detainees. These incendiary moments illustrate the ways in which state and societal intervention and discussion around commemorative sites remain salient features of the socio-political landscape, not only years after the end of dictatorial rule, but over a decade after these sites were recovered and/or created. This might have seemed a rather pessimistic opening gambit; yet as this study has hopefully elucidated through a combination of conceptual discussions over memory and analysis of contestation over a range of transitory, permanent, official and unofficial memorial sites, such fissures should not necessarily be judged negatively but rather acknowledged and scrutinized. Moving beyond extant architectural and aesthetic readings of sites of memory both deepens our understanding of the underlying processes of conceptualization, management and administration of such sites and illuminates the continuing contestation to which sites of memory are subjected throughout their lifespans. By foregrounding the evolution of these debates and controversies over the longue durée, the contrasting case studies can be situated within the wider struggles for memory and justice in Argentina and Uruguay. Furthermore, the shifts observed over the past twenty years, along with the changing constellations ← 247 | 248...

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