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Presenting the (Dictatorial) Past in Contemporary Argentina: Truth Forums and Arts of Dramatisation

Bell, Vikki and Paolantonio, Mario Di. 2018. Presenting the (Dictatorial) Past in Contemporary Argentina: Truth Forums and Arts of Dramatisation. Social and Legal Studies, 27(5), pp. 572-595. ISSN 0964-6639 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Drawing upon Isabelle Stengers’ (2016) notion of an ‘ecology of practices’ this article explores some of the divergent ways in which truths about the violence of Argentina’s last dictatorship period emerge in different forums. We consider how these forums deploy ‘arts of dramatisation’, which is to say, the ways they stage questions about the violence of the last dictatorship period in Argentina in order to propose, explore, confirm and sometimes refute, ‘candidates for truth’. Following Stengers’ provocations we argue that the various modes of staging the past conjure it up its violence in distinct ways, placing different constraints on how it can appear, using different material apparatus and probing it according to different values under different obligations and constraints. Based on observational research and interviews with key personnel – including lawyers, artists, forensic anthropologists, psychologists – we suggest that while each of the forums within this ecology is concerned with truth, how and what emerges as truth necessarily differs. What counts as evidence, what is understood as ‘successful’, what is dismissed as irrelevant, are all dependent upon the concerns of the forum, such that truths about Argentina’s dictatorship are not only ‘situated’ but also necessarily ‘partial’ forms of world-making. In an attempt to propose a shift from over-determined and usually binary lines of debate, we suggest these truths exist within an ‘ecology of practices’, to use Stengers’ term, insofar as these forums are not closed off from each other, but are becoming a web of often highly interdependent connections, wherein personnel, practices, audiences and resultant ‘truths’ travel.

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The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This article arises from research generously funded by the Economic & Social Research Council (UK) Grant: ES/N007433/1.


Violence, Argentina, dictatorship, Stengers, ecology of practices, memorial museums, art, trials

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1 August 2017Accepted
18 September 2017Published Online
October 2018Published

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Date Deposited:

11 Sep 2017 11:35

Last Modified:

30 Nov 2018 14:17

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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