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Silences, visibility and agency: Ethnicity, class and gender in public memorialization.

Jelin, Elizabeth
June 4, 2015

Source: (2009) Research Brief. June. New York: Center for Transitional Justice.

After periods of extended political conflict and of repression or state terrorism, there is an active political struggle about the meaning of what occurred. Alternative and even rival interpretations of the recent past and its memories take center stage in cultural and political debates. This paper illustrates some processes through which silenced or hidden ethnic, cultural or gender dimensions come to light during the unfolding of violent conflicts and factor into remembrance in the aftermath of conflict. Yet not all recent political conflicts and mass atrocities have been defined in these terms. In Argentina and Peru, the actors in the conflicts of the 1970s and 1980s identified neither ethnicity nor race as salient categories in their struggles. In these and other cases, violence and conflict were interpreted as ideological or political confrontations, although there are often strong underlying structural injustices and oppression that can be conceived as cultural or ethnic.
Making visible the ethnic, cultural or gender dimensions of conflict seldom if ever results in demands for specific memorialization policies. At times, external actors may foster such policies in recognition of victimhood (via monuments, memorials, museums and the like). Such initiatives may clash with the way communities deal with their recent past, since communities tend to follow their usual practices for handling conflict and pain, struggling to improve quality of life and searching for empowerment. (excerpt)


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