Narratives of Terror and Disappearance. Fantastic Dimensions of Collective Memory of the Last Dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983).
The project analyzes the impact of state terror on Argentine culture and society at the conceptual border between the registers of the real and the fantastic. The Desaparecidos are victims without graves. The little that we know about their ordeals after being captured has been reconstructed from fragments (survivor reports, forensic investigation of cadavers): Evidence of a history condemned to silence by a “state violence that causes disappearance/makes to disappear” (“Poder desaparecedor,” Calveiro). The figure of the Desaparecidos and the attempt to erase their stories mark a catastrophe of meaning (Gatti) for their relatives and a large part of Argentinean society that defies customary forms of representation and narrative. Our multidisciplinary project focuses on the correlations between the historical phenomenon of terror, collective strategies of coping, and the narratives which are infused or affected by structures of the fantastic (Todorov): Are conditions for the emergence and proliferation of terror structurally analogous to mechanisms of the fantastic? In which ways does the fantastic itself evoke elements which are characteristic for terror? To what extent are contemporary social discourses and representations informed by it? The analysis of social practices, cultural constellations, and literary and artistic production with regard to the Desaparecidos should explore such connections with an emphasis on those mechanisms which perpetuate the effects of terror. The project draws on current research and eyewitness reports gathered in Cono Sur about experiences under the dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s. In addition, it refers to a conceptual apparatus that has developed since the Shoah – as well as to key concepts such as trauma (Freud), bearing witness (Laub), writing and (micro)history (Benjamin, Ginzburg) – and applies them to Argentine history, politics, and society. The study brings together perspectives, theories, and methods from literary studies, history, psychoanalysis, media studies, pedagogy, and social anthropology. The project is located at the Institute for Romance Language and Literature of the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg and is funded by the European Research Council (ERC). Started in April 2010, the project will run for five years.