Challenging Memory, Truth, and Justice: Reworking the Kirchnerist Narrative (Argentina, 2003-2015) Open Access

Hulme-Lippert, Michelle (2016)

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This project examines memory and human rights politics in present-day Argentina. I argue that presidents Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015) have garnered great political success from their construction of a compelling narrative regarding 1970s revolutionaries and the 1976-1983 military dictatorship. This account of the past, which I term the Kirchnerist narrative, proposes that a young, heroic, and innocent generation of leftist militants was brutally massacred by state forces for trying to better the world and that this generation should be memorialized through the pursuit of forms of memory, truth, and justice that unquestioningly revere these political combatants. After tracing how this narrative has been established through political discourse, the opening of trials against former perpetrators, surprising alliances with prominent human rights organizations, and the transformation of former torture centers into memorial sites, I consider a growing corpus of cultural production from those closely related to this narrative's heroes (former leftist militants and their kin) that challenges and reworks what are deemed to be partial conceptions of memory, truth, and justice, criticized as having been co-opted for partisan political gain. Through an analysis of leftist cultural criticism--journalism, scholarly texts, three novels, and one film--that negotiate differing understandings of Argentina's past and less Manichean portrayals of guerrillas, state forces, and civil society, this project seeks to interpret the hegemonic struggle to make meaning of Argentina's recent past taking place in present-day political and cultural production. By examining how a divisive narrative about a national past employed for partisan politics has resulted in a new body of texts that have found what Doris Sommer terms "wiggle room" to rework accounts of the past in ways more representative of the authors' experiences, I hope to provide a critical framework useful for examining memory and human rights politics in and beyond Argentina, particularly in much of Latin America, where several current presidents had roles in their countries' recent histories of political violence, truth and reconciliation commissions continue to develop, memorial sites increase, and what Fernando Rosenberg has termed "narrativas de verdad y reconciliación" abound.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Surge of Human Rights Culture in Argentina and Beyond.....1

Chapter 1: The Kirchnerist Narrative: Partial Memory, Truth, and Justice.....18

The Kirchnerist Narrative in Political Discourse.....20

"Formo parte de una generación".....21

"diezmada, castigada con dolorosas ausencias".....29

"valores y convicciones a las que no pienso dejar en la puerta de entrada de la Casa Rosada".....37

Kirchnerism's Pursuit of Justice.....50

Becoming Sons and Daughters of the Madres and Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo: Surprising

and Powerful Alliances.....57

From Spaces of Terror to Sites of Memory.....70

Chapter 2: Toward a Less Partial Narrative: Nonfictional Responses to the Kirchnerist Narrative.....77

Memory and Human Rights as Partisan Politics.....81

Humans or Heroes?.....92

Chapter 3: Militants Reconsidering Militancy in Martín Caparrós's A quien corresponda and Leopoldo Brizuela's Una misma noche.....109

Complicating and Debating Memory, Truth, and Justice.....111

Re-humanizing Angels and Demons.....138

Questioning the "Década Ganada".....52

Chapter 4: Defenders of Whose Rights? A Child's Retelling of Montonero History in Laura Alcoba's La casa de los conejos and Benjamín

Ávila's Infancia clandestina.....161

Radical, Mainstream, "Non-political" Representations of Montoneros.....167

Containing and Constructing Lieux de mèmoire.....180

Neither Heroes nor Monsters.....196

Conclusion: Negotiating Memory, Truth, and Justice.....218

Works Cited.....227

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