As a historian of Latin America, my research focuses on cultural articulations of political change in modern Argentina. My in-progress book manuscript, “Critical Commemorations: Memorializing Rebels, Martyrs, and Heroes in Argentina, 1966-1983,” analyzes how commemorative practices during and after periods of military repression invoked values of rebellion, martyrdom, and heroism. A series of military dictatorships and authoritarian civilian governments from 1966 to 1983 limited political and cultural participation in Argentina. Over the course of the 1960s and 1970s, violence between right-wing governments and left-wing groups intensified. The number of idealized rebels, martyrs, and heroes swelled during university occupations in Buenos Aires and provincial capitals in 1966 and in protests like the 1969 Cordobazo in Córdoba. Conflicts between right wing governments and left wing Peronist groups including the Montoneros and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias turned to retributive violence following the Trelew and Ezeiza Massacres in 1972 and 1973. Responding to growing conflicts, including the Marxist-Leninist group Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo’s attack on the Monte Chingolo military installment in 1975, military leaders mobilized left-wing groups’ real or alleged involvement in violence to legitimize repressive tactics. The military dictatorship that governed Argentina between 1976 and 1983 intensified political repression through the practice of forced disappearance and foreclosed the kinds of commemorative practices previously used to claim political inclusion.
Commemorative acts often identified individuals who had been injured, killed, or threatened in confrontations with the military or police. The book manuscript argues that the identities of rebel, martyr, and hero intertwined and iterated values that sustained political communities under authoritarian pressure. Based on my dissertation in Latin American History at Emory University, my work combines close readings of official documents, newspapers, student and union newsletters, flyers from political groups, images, interviews, and audiovisual recordings with theoretical perspectives on power and violence. Analyzing intersections between political life and mourning, and examining practices of reenactment and commemoration that blurred the lines between live and grieved bodies, the book shows how and why people put their bodies at risk to challenge authoritarian practices. I join scholarly conversations that interrogate how a spectrum of disciplinary technologies and commemorative practices shape the construction of life, the state of exception, and the potentialities of community. Whereas the vast scholarship on memory practices in Latin America focuses on redemocratization in the 1980s and 1990s, I examine commemorations of specific individuals during previous periods of authoritarian rule to show how they produced collective memory in the immediate moment of repression.
Grants including the competitive Emory University Woodruff Fellowship, the Conference on Latin American History’s James C. Scobie Award, and a Tinker Field Research Grant supported a cumulative year and a half of research.