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Returning to the Site of Horror: On the Reclaiming of Clandestine Concentration Camps in Argentina


Andermann, J (2012). Returning to the Site of Horror: On the Reclaiming of Clandestine Concentration Camps in Argentina. Theory, Culture and Society, 29(1):76-98.

Abstract

Further to the recent handover of the Naval School of Mechanics (ESMA), Argentina’s most notorious centre for the clandestine torture and assassination of leftist militants under the dictatorship of 1976–83, to the city of Buenos Aires, in order to create on the premises a ‘Space for Memory’, debates on the proper commemoration of the recent past have gained momentum. In the course of these, it has become clear that there is currently no consensus among the human rights organizations, let alone Argentine society at large, on how the former sites of state terrorism can be adequately ‘recovered’, or what the purpose and function of such a recovery might be. Rather than as a shortcoming, however, this impossibility of closure, and of the monumentalization of a social consensus about the past in museal forms, might be taken as an opportunity to problematize some of the politics and material poetics underpinning the contemporary ‘memorial museum’. The article therefore analyses the principal arguments and positions voiced in the debate about ESMA with a view to their attitudes (explicit or implicit) towards the museum-form as such, and the conclusions that might be derived from these in the context of contemporary debates about ‘postmemory’, ‘secondary witnessing’ and the politics of empathy at the museum.

Abstract

Further to the recent handover of the Naval School of Mechanics (ESMA), Argentina’s most notorious centre for the clandestine torture and assassination of leftist militants under the dictatorship of 1976–83, to the city of Buenos Aires, in order to create on the premises a ‘Space for Memory’, debates on the proper commemoration of the recent past have gained momentum. In the course of these, it has become clear that there is currently no consensus among the human rights organizations, let alone Argentine society at large, on how the former sites of state terrorism can be adequately ‘recovered’, or what the purpose and function of such a recovery might be. Rather than as a shortcoming, however, this impossibility of closure, and of the monumentalization of a social consensus about the past in museal forms, might be taken as an opportunity to problematize some of the politics and material poetics underpinning the contemporary ‘memorial museum’. The article therefore analyses the principal arguments and positions voiced in the debate about ESMA with a view to their attitudes (explicit or implicit) towards the museum-form as such, and the conclusions that might be derived from these in the context of contemporary debates about ‘postmemory’, ‘secondary witnessing’ and the politics of empathy at the museum.

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16 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Romance Studies
Dewey Decimal Classification:800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism
470 Latin & Italic languages
410 Linguistics
440 French & related languages
460 Spanish & Portuguese languages
450 Italian, Romanian & related languages
Language:English
Date:January 2012
Deposited On:17 Jan 2013 10:07
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 18:21
Publisher:Sage Publications
ISSN:0263-2764
Free access at:Official URL. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276411423278
Official URL:http://tcs.sagepub.com/content/29/1/76.full.pdf+html
Related URLs:http://tcs.sagepub.com/

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