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Eruptions of Memory: The Critique of Memory in Chile, 1990-2015

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Eruptions of Memory: The Critique of Memory in Chile, 1990-2015

Nelly Richard

ISBN: 978-1-509-53230-8 December 2018 Polity 224 Pages

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In this important book, one of Latin America’s foremost critical theorists examines the use and abuse of memory in the wake of the social and political trauma of Pinochet’s Chile. Focusing on the period 1990–2015, Nelly Richard denounces the politics and aesthetics of forgetting that have underpinned both the protracted transition out of dictatorship and the denial of justice to its survivors and victims.

What are the perils and social costs of a culture of forgetting? What forms do memories of injustice take in newly formed democracies? How might a history of violence and an ethics of reparation be reconciled in post-autocratic societies? In addressing these and other questions, Richard exposes the abuses of the past and the present while also attending to the residues of memory that are manifested in street protests, literature, and the media, and in artistic practices from architecture and urban design to installation and film. While cultural artifacts can be powerful devices for resistance and critique, Richard argues that they can also be complicit in reproducing and collaborating with forms of institutional and political oblivion. Both within Chile and beyond, Richard offers a trenchant critique of how authoritarian regimes and neoliberal states whittle away at memory’s critical capacity. At a time of seismic political realignments in Latin America and internationally, Eruptions of Memory makes a powerful case for the ethical, political, and aesthetic value of memory.

Acknowledgments vii

Translator’s Note ix

Introduction: The Struggle for Words – Graciela Montaldo x

Prologue xxiii

1 Traces of Violence, Rhetoric of Consensus, and Subjective Dislocations 1

2 Women in the Streets: A War of Images 12

3 Torments and Obscenities 24

4 Confessions of a Torturer and His (Abusive) Journalistic Assemblage 42

5 Coming and Going 57

6 Architectures, Stagings, and Narratives of the Past 71

7 Two Stagings of the Memory of YES and NO 91

8 Past–Present: Symbolic Displacements of the Figure of the Victim 103

9 Media Explosion of Memory in September 2013 115

10 Commemoration of the 40th Anniversary of the Military Coup … and Afterwards 137

Notes 153

Bibliography 173

“In this powerful new book, Nelly Richard, Chile’s premier cultural critic, takes on the reconfigurations of political and cultural memory at various moments since the return to democracy. In each instance, her lucid readings open the seams of oblivion that have sutured Chilean social life.”
Francine Masiello, University of California, Berkeley