Argentina Betrayed. Memory, Mourning, and Accountability

The ruthless military dictatorship that ruled Argentina between 1976 and 1983 betrayed the country’s people, presiding over massive disappearances of its citizenry and, in the process, destroying the state’s trustworthiness as the guardian of safety and well-being. Desperate relatives risked their lives to find the disappeared, and one group of mothers defied the repressive regime with weekly protests at the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires. How do societies cope with human losses and sociocultural traumas in the aftermath of such instances of political violence and state terror?

In Argentina Betrayed, Antonius C. G. M. Robben demonstrates that the dynamics of trust and betrayal that convulsed Argentina during the dictatorship did not end when democracy returned but rather persisted in confrontations over issues such as the truth about the disappearances, the commemoration of the past, and the guilt and accountability of perpetrators. Successive governments failed to resolve these debates because of erratic policies made under pressure from both military and human rights groups. Mutual mistrust between the state, retired officers, former insurgents, and bereaved relatives has been fueled by recurrent revelations and controversies that prevent Argentine society from conclusively coming to terms with its traumatic past.

With thirty years of scholarly engagement with Argentina—and drawing on his extensive, fair-minded interviews with principals at all points along the political spectrum—Robben explores how these ongoing dynamics have influenced the complicated mourning over violent deaths and disappearances. His analysis deploys key concepts from the contemporary literature of human rights, transitional justice, peace and reconciliation, and memory studies, including notions of trauma, denial, accountability, and mourning. The resulting volume is an indispensable contribution to a better understanding of the terrible crimes committed by the Argentine dictatorship in the 1970s and their aftermath.

Author: Antonius C. G. M. Robben

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An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era

An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era approaches the contemporary age, between the late nineteenth and twenty-first centuries, as an archaeological period defined by specific material processes. It reflects on the theory and practice of the archaeology of the contemporary past from epistemological, political, ethical and aesthetic viewpoints, and characterises the present based on archaeological traces from the spatial, temporal and material excesses that define it. The materiality of our era, the book argues, and particularly its ruins and rubbish, reveals something profound, original and disturbing about humanity.

This is the first attempt at describing the contemporary era from an archaeological point of view. Global in scope, the book brings together case studies from every continent and considers sources from peripheral and rarely considered traditions, meanwhile engaging in an interdisciplinary dialogue with philosophy, anthropology, history and geography.

An Archaeology of the Contemporary Era will be essential reading for students and practitioners of the archaeology of the contemporary past, historical archaeology and archaeological theory. It will also be of interest to anybody concerned with globalisation, modernity and the Anthropocene.

Author: Alfredo González-Ruibal

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What Remains. Bringing America’s Missing Home from the Vietnam War

For many families the Vietnam War remains unsettled. Nearly 1,600 Americans—and more than 300,000 Vietnamese—involved in the conflict are still unaccounted for. In What Remains, Sarah E. Wagner tells the stories of America’s missing service members and the families and communities that continue to search for them. From the scientists who work to identify the dead using bits of bone unearthed in Vietnamese jungles to the relatives who press government officials to find the remains of their loved ones, Wagner introduces us to the men and women who seek to bring the missing back home. Through their experiences she examines the ongoing toll of America’s most fraught war.

Every generation has known the uncertainties of war. Collective memorials, such as the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery, testify to the many service members who never return, their fates still unresolved. But advances in forensic science have provided new and powerful tools to identify the remains of the missing, often from the merest trace—a tooth or other fragment. These new techniques have enabled military experts to recover, repatriate, identify, and return the remains of lost service members. So promising are these scientific developments that they have raised the expectations of military families hoping to locate their missing. As Wagner shows, the possibility of such homecomings compels Americans to wrestle anew with their memories, as with the weight of their loved ones’ sacrifices, and to reevaluate what it means to wage war and die on behalf of the nation.

Author: Sarah E. Wagner

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The stone dictatorship

The Valley of the Fallen, between a black past and an uncertain future

The Valley of the Fallen was designed to cast the shadow of Franco’s dictatorship and perpetuate the power of the victors over the defeated. Neither the Transition nor Spanish democracy has managed to dispel the secrets and opacity surrounding a monument that is sadly unique in Europe today. How was its construction financed? Who were the slave workers who worked for a decade? Who are the spoils that crowd the crypts? What symbolism hides its architecture? Who is and what does the challenging prior of the order of monks guarding the monastery of the Valley think?

In this book, historian Queralt Solé and journalist Sílvia Marimon illuminate the darkness surrounding everything related to the Valley of the Fallen up to the present day with rigor and an eagerness to disseminate information. They ask themselves a question: once the controversy over the tomb of dictator Francisco Franco has been overcome, what should be the destiny and function of this place?

Authors: Sílvia Marimon y Queralt Solé

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Necropolitics

In Necropolitics, Achille Mbembe, a leader in the new wave of francophone critical theory, theorizes the genealogy of the contemporary world, a world plagued by ever-increasing inequality, militarization, enmity, and terror as well as by a resurgence of racist, fascist, and nationalist forces determined to exclude and kill. He outlines how democracy has begun to embrace its dark side—what he calls its “nocturnal body”—which is based on the desires, fears, affects, relations, and violence that drove colonialism. This shift has hollowed out democracy, thereby eroding the very values, rights, and freedoms liberal democracy routinely celebrates. As a result, war has become the sacrament of our times in a conception of sovereignty that operates by annihilating all those considered enemies of the state. Despite his dire diagnosis, Mbembe draws on post-Foucauldian debates on biopolitics, war, and race as well as Fanon’s notion of care as a shared vulnerability to explore how new conceptions of the human that transcend humanism might come to pass. These new conceptions would allow us to encounter the Other not as a thing to exclude but as a person with whom to build a more just world.

Author: Achille Mbembe

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Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions

Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions aims to move archaeological research concerning the Holocaust forward through a discussion of the variety of the political, social, ethical and religious issues that surround investigations of this period and by considering how to address them. It considers the various reasons why archaeological investigations may take place and what issues will be brought to bear when fieldwork is suggested. It presents an interdisciplinary methodology in order to demonstrate how archaeology can (uniquely) contribute to the history of this period.

Case examples are used throughout the book in order to contextualise prevalent themes and a variety of geographically and typologically diverse sites throughout Europe are discussed. This book challenges many of the widely held perceptions concerning the Holocaust, including the idea that it was solely an Eastern European phenomena centred on Auschwitz and the belief that other sites connected to it were largely destroyed or are well-known. The typologically , temporally and spatial diverse body of physical evidence pertaining to this period is presented and future possibilities for investigation of it are discussed. Finally, the volume concludes by discussing issues relating to the “re-presentation” of the Holocaust and the impact of this on commemoration, heritage management and education. This discussion is a timely one as we enter an age without survivors and questions are raised about how to educate future generations about these events in their absence.

 

Author: Caroline Sturdy Colls

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Fallen soldiers. The Transformation of the Memory of World Wars

The First World War was not simply an unprecedented human catastrophe, but the tragic event that would give rise to Nazism and its genocidal policies. In this book, George L. Mosse reveals the myth of the experience of war, which from the time of the French Revolution to the Second World War masked the horrors of war with a glorious, romantic and transcendental mantle. The cult of fallen soldiers, war memorials, the banalization of the massacre and the brutalization of life caused by the experience of the Great War allow us to understand, through a fascinating narrative, the drift of Europe towards mass death in the twentieth century.

 

Author: George L. Mosse

 

The past we look at: memory and image in the face of recent history

The essays gathered in this book constitute a fundamental and novel contribution both in the field of communication and in memory studies. Based on the analysis of the different ways of using images in the memory of post-dictatorial Argentina, the compilers not only delimit a problem, but also establish a new line of work by placing their object in the perspective of a multiplicity of approaches. The medium of this book is the language of and about all means of expression of memory: declaration, testimony, autobiography, photography, cinema, documentary, television.

Focusing on visual media, the essays in this book, with their diverse styles and approaches, attempt to understand the relationships between verbal language and image, history and memory, fact and fiction. With this mission, the book avoids falling into a trap that lurks in much of the contemporary bibliography on memory: to believe in the complete authenticity, at all times, of the witness’s voice. And he does not refrain from pointing out mitifications and compulsions to repetition in the process of remembering the disappeared through photography, film and television. In this sense, The Past We Look at is an essential contribution to thinking about and discussing the present.

 

Compilers: Claudia Feld y Jessica Stites Mor

 

Krieg und Gewalt in der europäischen Erinnerung. War and Violence in European Memory

More than 100 million people lost their lives to war, expulsion and genocide during the course of the 20th century. To mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War on 11 November 2018, the Ruhr Museum in Essen is staging an exhibition entitled “Krieg. Macht. Sinn. War and Violence in European Memory”. This catalogue brings together articles and exhibits to illustrate the subject of war and its accompanying phenomena from a variety of angles.

Authors: Stefan Berger, Heinrich Theodor Grütter and Wulf Kansteiner

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Poetics of Absence

How to talk about the past when that same gesture is being co-opted and deactivated by power? This essay follows a red thread in contemporary visual culture to discover certain works that subvert the rules imposed by the so-called Transition culture to refer to the past. The “Poetics of Absence” is encrypted in them: These are subjective, unfinished, open and hybrid works between photography and documentary cinema, which use radical editing and re-appropriation techniques to destabilise the idea that the past can be recovered in a harmless way. By questioning the conception of the present as a smooth and problematic space, these works open cracks, as Walter Benjamin wanted, in the homogeneity of history. And in the writing of this essay.

 

Author: Isabel Cadenas Cañón

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