human rights, victimhood, and impunity

human rights, victimhood, and impunity - Social Analysis...

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Unformatted text preview: Social Analysis, Volume 51, Issue 1, Spring 2007, 179–197 © Berghahn Journals doi:10.3167/sa.2007.510112 H UMAN R IGHTS , V ICTIMHOOD , AND I MPUNITY An Anthropology of Democracy in Argentina Michael Humphrey and Estela Valverde Abstract : This article explores human rights politics in the transition from dictatorship to democracy in Argentina. Its ethnographic focus is the phenomenon of families of victims associations, usually led by moth- ers, that Frst emerged to protest against mass disappearance under the military dictatorship. Democracy has also produced new families of vic- tims associations protesting against different forms of state abuse and/or neglect. They represent one face of the widespread protest against a ‘culture of impunity’ experienced as ongoing insecurity and injustice. Private grief is made an emotional resource for collective action in the form of ‘political mourning’. The media, street demonstrations, and liti- gation are used to try to make the state accountable. State management of this public suffering has sought to determine legitimate victimhood based on a paradigm of innocence. The political mourning of victims and survivors charts the social margins of citizenship in the reduced, not expanded, neo-liberal democratic state in Argentina. Keywords : collective action, democracy, disappearance, human rights, impunity, political mourning, suffering, victims Daily in the Buenos Aires newspaper Página/12 , personal notices appear that commemorate the anniversaries of the disappearance of family members who were victims of the Argentine military dictatorship between 1976 and 1983. These personal notices pointedly remind readers of the traumatic personal legacies of the dictatorship and the ongoing social consequences of impunity suffered by the victims of crimes against humanity and their families. On 21 January 2005, one such personal notice commemorated the anniversary of the 180 | Michael Humphrey and Estela Valverde disappearance in 1977 of Hilda Adriana Fernández, who was last seen at ESMA (la Escuela Superior de Mecánica de la Armada, Navy Mechanics School). Now a national museum to the memory of the ‘disappeared’, this had been the location of a notorious, clandestine detention center and departure point for the ‘death flights’. The dedication read: “I remember you among all the young people murdered by corrupt state power, either deliberately or through neglect. They include the 30,000 who disappeared under the dictatorship; those who died in the Malvinas war; those who died in the Kheyvis nightclub ¡re (in Buenos Aires); the victims of the trigger-happy police policy; those alleged to have committed suicide in detention; and those who died at the República Cro- mañón nightclub ¡re. We neither forget, nor do we forgive. Noémi, your sister, your friends, and your compañeros .” 1 By placing her sister Hilda’s 1977 disappearance in a chronology of Argen- tine victims of the state for whose deaths no one had been held accountable,...
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human rights, victimhood, and impunity - Social Analysis...

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