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State Repression and the Labors of Memory

2003
Author:

Elizabeth Jelin
Translated by Marcial Godoy-Anativia and Judy Rein

State Repression and the Labors of Memory

A timely exploration of the nature of memory and its political uses

Elizabeth Jelin clarifies the debates about the nature of memory and, among many others, the issue of truth in testimony and traumatic remembrance. Her book exposes the consequences of repression for social processes in Latin America, and enriches our understanding of the conflicted nature of memory. As societies struggle to come to terms with the past this wise book offers guidance.

At a time when memory discourses have achieved truly global proportions, this concise and highly intelligent book by Elizabeth Jelin fills the gap for Latin America. In a series of overlapping and spiraling chapters, Jelin manages to display a truly ecumenical and inclusive approach to the many modes of thinking about memory and human rights.

Andreas Huyssen, author of Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory

Hearing the news from South America at the turn of the millennium can be like traveling in time: here are the trials of Pinochet, the searches for “the disappeared” in Argentina, the investigation of the death of former president Goulart in Brazil, the Peace Commission in Uruguay, the Archive of Terror in Paraguay, a Truth Commission in Peru. As societies struggle to come to terms with the past and with the vexing questions posed by ineradicable memories, this wise book offers guidance.

Combining a concrete sense of present urgency and a theoretical understanding of social, political, and historical realities, State Repression and the Labors of Memory fashions tools for thinking about and analyzing the presences, silences, and meanings of the past. With unflappable good judgment and fairness, Elizabeth Jelin clarifies the often muddled debates about the nature of memory, the politics of struggles over memories of historical injustice, the relation of historiography to memory, the issue of truth in testimony and traumatic remembrance, the role of women in Latin American attempts to cope with the legacies of military dictatorships, and problems of second-generation memory and its transmission and appropriation.

Jelin’s work engages European and North American theory in its exploration of the various ways in which conflicts over memory shape individual and collective identities, as well as social and political cleavages. In doing so, her book exposes the enduring consequences of repression for social processes in Latin America, and at the same time enriches our general understanding of the fundamentally conflicted and contingent nature of memory.


State Repression and the Labors of Memory

Elizabeth Jelin is professor at the University of Buenos Aires and research director at the Institute of Social and Economic Development.

State Repression and the Labors of Memory

At a time when memory discourses have achieved truly global proportions, this concise and highly intelligent book by Elizabeth Jelin fills the gap for Latin America. In a series of overlapping and spiraling chapters, Jelin manages to display a truly ecumenical and inclusive approach to the many modes of thinking about memory and human rights.

Andreas Huyssen, author of Present Pasts: Urban Palimpsests and the Politics of Memory

Elizabeth Jelin’s short, elegant book offers a useful synthesis of the large and growing literature on cultural memory and trauma engendered by state repression. A useful resource for those interested in a broad overview of the field; it would be excellent for a seminar on the subject of cultural memory or memory after trauma.

Law, Culture and the Humanities

State Repression and the Labors of Memory

Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Memory in the Contemporary World
2. What Memories Are We Talking About?
3. Political Struggles for Memory
4. History and Social Memory
5. Trauma, Testimony, and “Truth”
6. Engendered Memories
7. Transmissions, Legacies, Lessons

Conclusion

Appendix: A Chronology of Political Violence and Human Rights Movements

Notes
Works Cited

Index