Political Violence and Trauma in Argentina

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For decades, Argentina's population was subject to human rights violations ranging from the merely disruptive to the abominable. Violence pervaded Argentine social and cultural life in the repression of protest crowds, a ruthless counterinsurgency campaign, massive numbers of abductions, instances of torture, and innumerable assassinations. Despite continued repression, thousands of parents searched for their disappeared children, staging street protests that eventually marshaled international support. Challenging the notion that violence simply breeds more violence, Antonius C. G. M. Robben's provocative study argues that in Argentina violence led to trauma, and that trauma bred more violence.

In this work of superior scholarship, Robben analyzes the historical dynamic through which Argentina became entangled in a web of violence spun out of repeated traumatization of political adversaries. This violence-trauma-violence cycle culminated in a cultural war that "disappeared" more than ten thousand people and caused millions to live in fear. Political Violence and Trauma in Argentina demonstrates through a groundbreaking multilevel analysis the process by which different historical strands of violence coalesced during the 1970s into an all-out military assault on Argentine society and culture.

Combining history and anthropology, this compelling book rests on thorough archival research; participant observation of mass demonstrations, exhumations, and reburials; gripping interviews with military officers, guerrilla commanders, human rights leaders, and former disappeared captives. Robben's penetrating analysis of the trauma of Argentine society is of great importance for our understanding of other societies undergoing similar crimes against humanity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The definitive account of the Dirty War and its origins and consequences."—Latin American Research Review

"Readers will certainly benefit from this fine book that provides a comprehensive discussion of the place of violence in Argentine political culture and constitutes an excellent addition to a growing literature on the topic."—Journal of Latin American Studies

"Robben offers a comprehensive account of a deeply traumatic time in Argentinean history, in a way that allows readers not only to put the separate pieces together but also illuminates broader dynamics regarding alternative forms of democracies. We see history and anthropology tellingly and convincingly entwined. It should become a classic."—Rob Borofsky, Center for Public Anthropology

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812220063
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Series: The Ethnography of Political Violence
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 1,067,406
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Antonius C. G. M. Robben is Professor of Anthropology at Utrecht University. His books include the edited volumes Fieldwork Under Fire: Contemporary Studies of Violence and Survival (with Carolyn Nordstrom) and Cultures Under Siege: Collective Violence and Trauma (with Marcelo Suarez-Orozco).

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Table of Contents

1 Changing the course of history : dignity, emancipation, and entrenchment 3
2 The time of the furnaces : proscription, compromise, and insurrection 25
3 A breeze turned into hurricane : the apogee of crowd mobilization 44
4 Crowd clashes : euphoria, disenchantment, and rupture 64
5 Shots in the night : revenge, revolution, and insurgency 89
6 The long arm of popular justice : punishment, rebellion, and sacrifice 107
7 Revolution postponed : anger, frustration, and entitlement 128
8 The shadows of death : improvisation, counterinsurgency, and downfall 147
9 The war of cultures : hierarchy versus equality, Christianity versus Marxism 171
10 The wheelworks of repression : assault, abduction, and annihilation 190
11 The operating theater : torture, dehumanization, and traumatization 213
12 Political prisons and secret detention centers : dismantlement, desocialization, and rehabilitation 236
13 The disappearance : despair, terror, and fear 261
14 The search : hope, anguish, and illusion 282
15 The call for truth : defiance, resistance, and maternal power 299
16 Recovery and reburial of the past : democracy, accountability, and impunity 318
Conclusion : the spirals of violence and trauma 341
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