Re-emerging Pasts: Forums for Truth-telling in Contemporary Argentina and Chile

Lead Research Organisation: Goldsmiths College
Department Name: Sociology

Abstract

This research project studies how - by what processes, according to what criteria, and subject to what kinds of verification? - truths emerge about the political violence that took place in the 1970s and 1980s in Argentina and Chile. Although that period of violence is now 'past', many facets of it are still unresolved. Beyond the legal mechanisms that continue to unearth truths about the last military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-83) and the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile (1973-1990), there are several sites at which these unresolved issues emerge for debate and verification. There is a need to address the unresolved and still controversial nature of many questions as the presentation of the story of what happened becomes a focus of new memorial spaces and Memory museums, as well as at other sites where truths are tested, including where biological identities are tested via DNA or where human or material remains require forensic testing.
The research will take place at a range of diverse sites that we call 'forums for telling'. Its premise is that truths about the past are of different kinds because they have to pass through different processes of hypothesising, 'testing' and reflection before they are affirmed and allowed to emerge as true. Thus the production of truth at a museum of memory differs both in process and in terms of the truths it seeks and can affirm, from the production of truth by the law courts, or by the Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team's attempts to establish identities through the testing of human remains or DNA.
The research concerns how the different forums and spaces approach this task differently, how they involve different material and human witnesses, different procedures and place different constraints on the objects of their interrogations. In studying these processes we will ask: What candidates emerge to tell the truth about the past? Which truths are allowed to emerge at the different sites? How are they understood as relevant to the forum that debates their status? What 'tests' must they pass in order to attain their status as true? How are emergent truths presented, arranged and mediated for consumption? How is their status challenged? The importance of these questions becomes apparent when one considers the pedagogic dimensions of the activities at stake. We will highlight the pedagogic and inter-generational dimension. What do the different forums understand as the relation between the production of truth and the presentation or curation of the story of the past as a wider societal imperative? How do they agree to present their work domestically and internationally, including digitally? How do they seek to overcome the dangers of making a spectacle of the past, or else using it within a strategic instrumentalisation that insists that listening repeatedly to horrors of past violence will inoculate us from ever repeating the past wrongs?
The research will use observation, interviews and documentary data gathered from significant sites chosen for their potential to speak to these interests. In Argentina, we will visit the largest and most notorious of the ex-clandestine centres for detention, torture and extermination (ex-ccdte), the ESMA in Buenos Aires, now an official Site for Memory, and where debates about the use of the space have raged for several years, but where new changes to the use and especially the pedagogic aspects of the site are presently coming to fruition. Additionally we will visit two ex-ccdte sites further afield, in Cordoba and Tucuman. In Chile, we will also visit ex-centres of detention in Santiago (Londres 38, Villa Grimaldi) and one further afield in Chacabuca in the north. In each country we will also be visiting important newly opened Museums of Memory (in Santiago and Rosario). To complement these, we will observe and interview members of the important Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, as well as following key legal cases that are on-going.

Planned Impact

Who, beyond the academic disciplines, will benefit form the research?
The beneficiaries of the research will extend beyond the academic communities described in the 'Academic beneficiaries' section, especially insofar as the research will speak directly to issues of how decisions have been taken within new Sites of Memory and Museums of Memory in the Southern Cone. These beneficiaries will be located in the cultural and third sectors, being directors and team workers across all three categories of locations studied (see Case for Support) and the other similar enterprises in the Southern Cone, as well as those engaged in similar projects around the world.
In terms of beneficiaries in the UK, we foresee potential benefits in terms of sharing knowledge about another part of the world with cultural institutions, as has happened with our previous research.

How will they benefit?
The research has the potential to contribute to future debates about pedagogic practices, both in the location directly studied, in Latin America and in other locations around the world through. It will do so by reflecting back existent organisational practices and procedures. It is possible that our research will shape decisions by offering first, evidence based reflections, and secondly, by providing connections across a network across the two countries and different towns and cities that are presently only unevenly in conversation. The research will offer an exposure to projects at various locations throughout Argentina and Chile, many of which are not in direct contact with each other. Nor would they have detailed knowledge of each other's projects. This knowledge will feed into reflexive conversations about their choices and practices, potentially provide solutions to shared problems and foster support. This may be important especially for those sites, practices and personnel located in more geographically isolated areas.
In the UK, the sharing of knowledge about contemporary practices in Latin America will be of interest to curators, educators and researchers working, or training to work, in the cultural sector wherever there is interest in how past violence and its consequences are articulated. The benefits include improving knowledge that contextualises exhibitions, bringing new audiences to events through the inclusion of Latin American perspectives and providing diversity to the examples used in education and training.
Those working in legal-focused NGOs may also benefit insofar as our project allows insights into how legal decisions sit within a wider normative frameworks that extends to include the other forums. The project will be of particular interest because it will highlight where these are in harmony and where they diverge.
 
Description This research project was a humanities and social science project that focused on several different 'forums' where the violence of the last dictatorships of Argentina and Chile is presented. These were: criminal trials, museums, sites of memory, archives, universities. Important new research questions have been opened up by our project:
• In order to make sense of the different modes by which the stories of the past are told, we employed new theoretical resources - specifically the recent theories of philosopher Isabelle Stengers and her concept of 'ecologies of practice'- and our research has shown the applicability of these concepts to a context rather different from that in which they were developed.
• The research suggests that legal court cases pursuing the conviction of crimes committed during the dictatorship are forums that can also serve other functions for the participants in terms of telling their stories, connecting with others, finding support for past traumas. However, by the same token, it suggests that the experience of criminal trials is constrained by legal relevance and is not always in and of itself experienced as forms of 'closure' for the survivors or families of the disappeared. The research also uncovered dissatisfaction with the current trials among prominent lawyers.
• The research suggests that archives, art spaces and museums of memory provide important alternative sites for telling the story of the past, and that the freedom of juxtaposition can allow novel modes of connection across time and space. They become sites of on-going discussion that are likely to continue beyond the trials.
• The research has been an important part of the development of close research connections between Goldsmiths, University of London and the University of Chile; a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the two institutions.
• The research has produced academic articles in leading humanities and socio-legal journals, several conference papers and seminars in the UK, US, Chile, Canada, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands.
Exploitation Route • Academic audiences will consult arguments put forward in our academic articles and will be able to extend and critically engage with these, especially as the museums develop and trials become fewer.
• The third sector - especially artists, archives, galleries and museums - in Argentina and Chile will engage with the issues of documentation and truth-telling addressed in the research.
• Legal practitioners and those supporting survivors in trials will be interested to read the interviews and analysis of legal personnel reflecting on the place and contemporary problems of staging the trials in Argentina.
• Educators of secondary education will be interested to read accounts of pedagogic practice in memory sites in Chile and Argentina.
Sectors Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://www.gold.ac.uk/orc/
 
Description American Comparative Literature Association Conference, Utrecht, July 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference paper at international conference.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.acla.org
 
Description Conference Presentation (VIenna, July 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact International Sociology Association Forum of Sociology, Vienna, Austria
'Re-Emerging Pasts: Forums for Telling in Contemporary Argentina and Chile'
Session: The Politics of Conflict, Reconciliation, Memory, and Trauma: Paving a Path
for the Present and Future" (4611) 10-14th July 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.isa-sociology.org/en/conferences/forum/vienna-2016/
 
Description Conference Presentation at 37th Annual Bergamo, Conference on Curriculum Theory and Classroom Practice, (Darby, USA 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Opportunity to present my work on curating difficult knowledge to professors in the field of education and involved in curriculum design and theorizing. Also in attendance were postgraduate students conducting research in museums and schools. Questions and discussion following my presentation has increased interest in our funded research project and its implications for museum curriculum design and theorizing.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.jctonline.org/the-2016-bergamo-conference-program/
 
Description Goldsmiths Communications story 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Goldsmiths' communications team wrote a story on my ESRC funded research after my first research trip associated with this award.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.gold.ac.uk/news/telling-the-story-of-argentinas-disappeared./
 
Description Invited Keynote lecture (University of Leeds) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact University of Leeds Performa Conference. Invited keynote Lecture.
Title: 'Performativity: Journeys in Pursuit of a Concept'
June 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.fine-art.leeds.ac.uk/events/performance-and-performativity-actualities-and-futures/
 
Description Invited Lecture and participation in 'Performing Dignity' Event (University of Essex) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact University of Essex Performing Dignity interdisciplinary and international conference. Invited speaker.
Paper title: 'On Dignity: Two Photographs, Two Propositions'
July 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited Presentation at Workshop pre-Latin American Studies Association Conference (New York, 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Visual Studies Section Pre-Conference Workshop
'Dis/placed Visualities. Archives, Amnesia, and Aesthetic Practices beyond the Commonplace'
New York, USA
Paper title: 'The Aim and Reach of Justice: The Performativity of Law in Contemporary
Argentina May 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited plenary presentation on Visuality and Difficult Knowledge at the Provoking Curriculum Studies Conference - "Curriculum Encounters" (McGill University, Montreal, 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited to present/ discuss in a plenary panel interview the role of pedagogy and curation with regards to visual images relating to difficult historical events. The audience was made up from many different sectors. Questions and follow ups after the presentation indicated that the presentation had sparked wide interest ranging from implications of work in formal schooling, museum practices, suggestion of publications and ideas for university courses.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.mcgill.ca/education/channels/event/provoking-curriculum-conference-2017-provoking-curric...
 
Description Key note presentation ESCALA University of Essex 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A key note presentation for the University of Essex ESCALA event 'Argentina 1976-2016: Activism, Memorialisation and Complicity' (7-10 March 2016) a week of art-based events focusing on the 40 years since the start of the last military coup in Argentina in 1976.
Lecture title: 'Imagine This: Art as a forum for truth-Telling about the Violent Past.'
Film showing: Buena Memoria on the work of Marcelo Brodsky (Vikki Bell and Gerrit Stollbrok, 2015)
March 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Keynote conference presentation at University of Aberystwyth 'Bringing the Past to presence: Creative Memory and the Trace of the Creaturely' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact An international conference bringing together interdisciplinary audience to discuss issues of art and violence. Further networking and conversations have arisen form this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://performanceandpolitics.aber.ac.uk/portfolio/symposium-absence-presence-and-embodiment/
 
Description Latin American Studies Association, 50th Anniversary Conference, (New York City, 2016). 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper presentation, "Curating Difficult Knowledge in Memorial Sites and Museums in Argentina and Chile." Informal conversation following my presentation with colleagues in attendance from various Latin American countries who made suggestions for further research areas, issues and questions to explore.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://lasa.international.pitt.edu/eng/lasa2016_archive/index.asp
 
Description Lecture at University of Valparaiso, Chile 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact University of Valparaiso, Chile
Invited lecture and doctoral seminar
Title: 'Five theses on Curating the Violent Past' April 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://sociologygold.wordpress.com/2016/04/20/between-documentality-and-imagination-five-theses-on-...
 
Description Panel / Report on Research to Faculty of Education: "Research Directions: Yours, Mine, Ours?" (York University, Toronto, 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Report / panel paper presentation to Faculty of Education (professors and postgraduate students) on ongoing research work (specifically discussing "curatorial controversies" regarding difficult knowledge in Londres 38, Chile). Much interest in the work was noted. Discussion with students who are interested in reading / exploring these issues further in publications and through graduate courses that I will be teaching. Colleagues (other professors in the Faculty) also approached me to ask further questions and discuss possibilities for collaboration in future panel presentations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://edu.yorku.ca/2017/01/in-house-conference-showcases-research-in-the-faculty-of-education/
 
Description Paper presenation at at the Provoking Curriculum Studies Conference - "Curriculum Encounters" (McGill University, Montreal, 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Paper presentation was well received with interesting questions and suggestions for further consideration. From the follow up discussion it was obvious that the audience had been introduced to new vocabulary and way of thinking about curriculum and museum memorial work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Participation in Debate accompanying Art exhibition (Birkbeck, University of London) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Birkbeck, University of London 'Tejas Verdes: I was not there' The Aesthetics of Witnessing Event
Paper title: 'Witnessing: Notes on an Artful Art' Organised by Margarita Palacios, Department of Psychosocial Studies
June 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bbk.ac.uk/arts/research/peltz-gallery/past-events-and-exhibitions-at-the-peltz-gallery/ju...
 
Description Performance Philosophy Conference Prague, Czechoslovakia, June 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Conference paper at the Performance Philosophy conference
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://performancephilosophy.ning.com
 
Description Presentation at Latin American Association Conference (New York, 2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Latin American Studies Association Conference, New York, USA
Paper title: 'Speaking Justly: 'Forums for Telling' in Argentina and Chile' May 2016
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://lasa.international.pitt.edu/eng/lasa2016_archive/index.asp
 
Description Presentation at UN Programme Development for Nepal, Kathmandu (2016) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact United Nations Programme for Development (Nepal) Invited Participant 'Unofficial Forms of Truth-Telling after Conflict' United Nations, Kathmandu, Nepal March 2016
The event brought together Victims groups from across the political lines, and professionals from within UN team and Nepalese NGOs to discuss responses to violent past across the world.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://sociologygold.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/truth-telling-in-nepal/
 
Description School of Social Sciences and Cultural Studies Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, USA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact A seminar presentation to students and faculty of Pratt institute
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017