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New Left Review 87, May-June 2014

josé emilio burucúa & nicolás kwiatkowski


Representations of the Disappeared

The last military dictatorship in Argentina was responsible for the violent, systematic and clandestine murder of thousands of citizens between 1976 and 1983, a unique event in the country’s history. [*] A previous version of this article was presented at the Wissenschaftskolleg and the Zentrum für Literatur- und Kulturforschung in Berlin. We would like to thank the audience for their comments and suggestions. These facts have created a social need to better comprehend what really happened during those years, to search for the causes and conditions that made this horror possible. The Argentine case is a recent example of a more general phenomenon, the historical massacre, which has troubled historians since classical antiquity, because of the difficulty inherent in its narration. In what follows, we attempt to identify what we term the ‘representational formulae’ that have been used to portray historical massacres. First, we define what a historical massacre is and give the theoretical grounds for our arguments. Secondly, we follow the long-term evolution of three of these formulae—hunt, martyrdom, hell—up to the twentieth century. Thirdly, we provide a number of examples that point to a possible new formula: the multiplication of silhouettes and Doppelgänger. Finally, we discuss some of the risks of an endeavour of this kind.

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José Emilio Burucúa, Nicolás Kwiatkowski, ‘The Absent Double’, NLR 87: £3

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