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Alison Atkinson-Phillips

Abstract

Public memorials play an increasing role in the repertoire of commemorative practices through which societies attempt to come to terms with difficult or uncomfortable pasts. Increasingly, memorials are also used to acknowledge lived experiences of loss and trauma. This represents a shift in the kinds of experiences memorials can be expected to acknowledge and challenges ideas of what a memorial is and what it does. This chapter draws on research conducted within Australia, and considers three examples of memorials that are influenced by transitional justice approaches to truth-telling, and which are used to bring difficult stories of child abuse, forced separation of families and loss of land into the public sphere. Using a narrative therapy approach, this chapter considers the relationships of power that allow such stories to be told in particular ways. These examples offer insights into the strategies survivors of human rights abuses and their supporters use to claim the right to speak and to have their stories heard, and the ways such testimony is constrained. At their best, memorials to lived experience are part of an arsenal of tools available to survivors and their supporters to bear witness to difficult pasts. The materiality of the memorial form can be helpful in assisting such histories to be absorbed into mainstream narratives.

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Edited by Cristina Santos, Adriana Spahr and Tracy Crowe Morey

Series:

Cristina Santos

Abstract

Historically relegated to the private sphere of Latin American society, women’s entrance into the public arena of politics took place primarily under the military-authoritarian governments during the second half of the twentieth century. In Madre de Mendoza the reader is presented with the life story of María Isabel Figueroa, an Argentine mother who began her activism after her daughter disappeared. We will see how María Isabel’s social activism develops during the various stages of the Argentinean Dirty War and how in being an active militant or guerrera in search of her missing daughter the personal, enters the arena of the collective. This testimony works through not only personal and collective trauma but also acknowledges and vindicates the number of disappeared. Although she did not begin as a revolutionary, María Isabel, becomes a militant mother who not only searched for her disappeared daughter, but in the end, mothered many other revolutionary children.