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Captive Women

Oblivion and Memory in Argentina

2002
Author:

Susana Rotker
Translated by Jennifer French
Foreword by Jean Franco

Captive Women

An exposé of Argentina’s attempts to whitewash its national history.

Argentina is the only country in the Americas that has successfully erased the presence of Indians, Africans, and mestizos from its national story. In Captive Women, Susana Rotker exposes this concerted act of forgetting by looking at a historical phenomenon that has been expunged from the national record: the widespread kidnapping of white women by Argentine Indians in the nineteenth century.

Cultural Studies of the Americas Series, volume 10

Argentina is the only country in the Americas that has successfully erased the presence of Indians, Africans, and Mestizos from its national story in order to encourage Europeoanization-well into the twentieth century. Susan Roker exposes this concerted act of forgetting by looking at a historical phenomenon that has been omitted from Argentine records, the widespread kidnapping of Argentine Indians in the nineteenth century.

Hispanic Outlook

Argentina is the only country in the Americas that has successfully erased the presence of Indians, Africans, and mestizos from its national story. Official documents, reports, and censuses have largely omitted any references to the country’s non-European inhabitants, mirroring official policies that once included the extermination of indigenous peoples and continued to encourage Europeanization well into the twentieth century. In Captive Women, Susana Rotker exposes this concerted act of forgetting by looking at a historical phenomenon that has been expunged from the national record: the widespread kidnapping of white women by Argentine Indians in the nineteenth century.

Captivity narratives form a major part of the early colonial literature of the United States, but Argentina has no such tradition. These narratives contradict Argentina’s carefully shaped self-image, one historically based on the absence of aboriginal peoples and the impossibility of miscegenation. Captive Women uses close and imaginative readings of military documents, government treaties, travel journals, essays, and memoirs to explore the foundations of Argentina's strategies of silence and its negation of uncomfortable historical realities.

Captive Women

Susana Rotker (1954-2000) was professor of Spanish at Rutgers University.

Jennifer French is assistant professor of Spanish and comparative literature at Williams College.

Captive Women

Argentina is the only country in the Americas that has successfully erased the presence of Indians, Africans, and Mestizos from its national story in order to encourage Europeoanization-well into the twentieth century. Susan Roker exposes this concerted act of forgetting by looking at a historical phenomenon that has been omitted from Argentine records, the widespread kidnapping of Argentine Indians in the nineteenth century.

Hispanic Outlook

“Captive Women is a superb critical meditation on an important and neglected aspect of women’s history. Susana Rotker’s splendid book reflects on the ‘disappearing’ of racial diversity from the discourse of nation-building in Argentina. Rotker centers her analysis on the recurrent figure of the captive, the white woman kidnapped by Indians, in nineteenth-century history and fiction. Repressed from collective memory, the figure returns nonetheless to haunt Argentine culture and, in Rotker’s able hands, becomes a powerful tool for critical inquiry.” Sylvia Molloy, New York University (may edit for length)

Captive Women is a rich book, filled with specificity and close reading. Susana Rotker has admirably succeeded in exposing the concerted act of forgetting that allowed Argentina to erase the presence of Indians, Africans, and mestizos from its national story.

Biography

Captive Women

CONTENTS

Foreword Jean Franco
Acknowledgments

1. Against Oblivion
2. In Conquest of a White Nation: The Elites
3. No One Mourns for Captives: The Soldiers
4. Frontier Bodies: Esteban Echeverrfa's La, Cautiva
5. The Return of the Forbidden: The Women Writers
6. Captive Texts: The Ethics of Representation
7. The Story of a Journey with No Return
8. News of a Disappearing World

Notes
Bibliography

Index