Rethinking Latin American Memories: Trajectories of their study and construction

Studies on memory in Latin America have been particularly associated with remembering the violent past of its recent history. Focus has been placed on the human rights violations perpetrated under the military dictatorships in the Southern Cone and on armed conflicts that took place in several countries of Central America and the Andean region. Intellectuals linked to this field of study, particularly those from the region, have played a dual role here: on one hand, that of committed citizens, witnesses of the period in question, and on the other, that of scholars founding a new area of study. In this way, memory studies in Latin America not only represent a field of scholarly investigation, but also a political space of activism in which the meanings of this past are being constructed, disputed, and (re)oriented. As a response to regional political developments during the 1980s and 1990s, explaining the dictatorial past dominated the field of memory studies, marking a milestone in Latin American scholarship and forging an obligatory reference from the Southern Cone’s experience that influenced the understanding of other local cases, including those in Europe (Capdepón, 2015, Elsemann, 2011, Assmann/Conrad, 2010, Crenzel, 2010: 19-20).

As a response to this reality, critical remarks emerged. Although memory has been an important tool for transitional justice processes, it also tends to be standardized to such an extent that a kind of cultural and editorial industry of “never ever” has been shaped, as stated by anthropologist Alejandro Castillejo (2007: 77). The situation is problematic not only because it could lead to ignoring the political causes of conflicts (Castillejo, 2009), but also because it trivializes struggles for human rights (Bilbija & Payne, 2011) and excludes different experiences and emotions of a particular historical context. Likewise, it is noteworthy that during these decades another type of study and different constructions of memory took place. It questioned a national “official history” that privileged a few while making the majority invisible: here, memory was a form in which the subaltern appropriated a more distant past (Achugar, 1996: 849-850).

Considering the previous point, this issue of CROLAR will seek to discuss the extent to which we are confronted with a thematic unification of “Latin American memory” tied predominately to state terrorism and the civil wars that took place between the 1970s and the 1990s. Is this a necessity and prevailing interest in the various countries in question? Is it a reflection of the political orientation of some governments during the past decade? And what actors are studying and constructing the memories of the continent? A critical and analytical gaze at recent publications and debates in memory studies dealing with this region will aim to respond these inquiries.

This questioning regarding a unique Latin American memory is necessary because while memory is becoming a fundamental right and a vital condition to consolidate the democracies of the region, limiting ourselves to an academic perspective would reduce the potential of memory studies to reveal other historical, social, and cultural processes that remain hidden behind this political subject.

This issue of CROLAR, Thinking Latin American Memories: Trajectories in their study and construction, edited by the Interdisciplinary Latin American Memory Research Network, aims to establish a dialogue not just among the various experiences in the region but also among distinct disciplines that have been involved in memory studies. This is in order to see how the field has been reinvented and what questions remain relevant today. Focus is placed on an interdisciplinary approach that is ideal to look at the concerns of the scholars involved and to interlink views on common elements. In this way, we intend to respond to questions regarding the homogenization of studies and constructions of memory in the region, as well as to identify, on a methodological level, the categories and levels of analyses used: what validity does the nation hold and what is the presence of transnational and local processes? Should we use the term collective memory, historical memory, social memory, or what other concept would be helpful to approach the cases in question? And what does all of this imply?

With this goal in mind, we propose a collection of reviews of publications and interventions that addresses the subject of memory from and about Latin America along the following lines. First of all, for the section Review Articles, we invite reviewers to write critical essays that compile and analyze between three and five publications (books, articles, blogs) framed around current debates. Second, for the section Focus, we propose to examine the currency and innovation in recent publications from 2015/2016 dealing with the subject of violent past in recent history. At the same time, we would also like to call reviews concerning books that explore new possibilities for memory studies to reveal other processes and links to the past. Third, we invite scholars to revisit classics in a brief essay that looks at the work of a pioneering writer of memory studies in the region, examining them in terms of their continued relevance and diffusion. Finally, since the construction of memories often surpasses the academic realm, becoming a prolific theme in literature, sculpture, film, drama, and other forms of cultural expression, this issue will dedicate a fourth section to reviews of works in other creative media that construct and/or study memory in Latin America.

Reviews and review articles must be submitted before 30.01.2017. They can be written in Spanish, English, Portuguese or German. Ideally, the review should be in a differentlanguage than the reviewed publication or project. The formal requirements for reviews can be found at http://www.crolar.org.

We are looking forward to reading from you! If you are interested in writing a review or have any other suggestions or questions, please contact the editors of the volume: Andrea Cagua Martínez (andrea.cagua@gmail.com), Mónika Contreras Saiz (monikacs@zedat.fu-berlin.de) & Leonardo Pascuti: (leonardo.pascuti@gmail.com).

Bibliography:

Achugar, Hugo, (1996): “Repensando la heterogeneidad latinoamericana: a propósito de lugares, paisajes y territorios”, Revista Iberoamericana, Vol. LXII, nos. 176-177, pp. 845–861.

Assmann, Aleida, CONRAD Sebastian (eds.) (2010): Memory in a Global Age: Discourses, practices and trajectories, Houndsmills, Basingstoke, New York: Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies.

Bilbija, Ksenija, PAYNE, Leigh A. (eds.) (2011): Accounting for Violence: Marketing Memory in Latin America, Durham [NC]: Duke University Press.

Capedón, Ulrike (2015): Vom Fall Pinochet zu den Verschwundenen des Spanischen Bürgerkrieges. Die Auseinandersetzung mit Diktatur und Menschenrechtsverletzungen in Spanien und Chile, Bielefeld, Transcript Verlag.

Crenzel, Emilio (2010): “Políticas de la memoria en Argentina. La historia del informe nunca más.” Papeles del CEIC # 61, pp. 1 – 31.

Castillejo Cuéllar, Alejandro (2007), “La globalización del testimonio: Historias, silencios endémicos y los usos de la palabra”, Antípoda, No.4, pp. 76 – 99.

Castillejo Cuéllar, Alejandro (2009): Los archivos del dolor. Ensayos sobre la violencia y el recuerdo en la Sudáfrica Contemporánea. Bogotá: Universidad de los Andes, Centro de Estudios Sociales – CESO.

Elsemann, Nina (2011), Umkämpfte Erinnerungen. Die Bedeutung lateinamerikanischer Erfahrungen für die spanische Geschichtspolitik nach Franco, Frankfurt a. M., Campus Verlag.

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