On Fernando's Photograph: The Biopolitics of Aparicion in Contemporary Argentina

Bell, Vikki. 2010. On Fernando's Photograph: The Biopolitics of Aparicion in Contemporary Argentina. Theory, Culture & Society, 27(4), pp. 69-89. ISSN 0263-2764 [Article]

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This article concerns the striking photograph of a young man, Fernando Brodsky, taken shortly after he was kidnapped in Argentina in 1979. Brodsky was detained in the notorious Escuela de la Armada (ESMA) in Buenos Aires, and remains disappeared. The negative of the photograph was smuggled out of ESMA and the image became part of a bundle of photographic evidence submitted by families of the disappeared during the trials of the military after the return to democracy in 1983. This article seeks to under- stand the vitality of the photograph, the different courses it takes, the archives it joins and leaves, asking: ‘What sort of life can the photograph have? What sort of desire? What sort of politics?’ The article proposes that we might consider the role of such images ‘biopolitically’, which is to say in the context of the relations established through the attempts to govern populations in times of military rule and in times of transitional democracy. The re-appearance of Fernando in the photograph is part of post-dictator- ship politics in which the demand ‘aparición’ resounds. Fernando, an absolute witness who does not, who cannot, speak nevertheless re-appears in the law courts and in art exhibitions. The article considers the difference between the photograph’s appearance as evidence and its reappearance in the art galleries, arguing that its ‘desires’ can be imagined differently in each. The article argues that while the photograph does not escape archives tout court, in raising the question of how it should be filed, it prompts reflec- tion on the biopolitical present, with its inequitable distribution of life and security among populations. This is a politics of the present, more than it is a politics of memory.

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July 2010Published

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31 Oct 2011 13:55

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29 Apr 2020 15:31

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