sobre las Madres

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¿Cómo podemos, al escribir de las dictaduras y sus tecnologías de opresión en América Latina, al escribir contra la tortura y del terror, perturbar su poder no solo de imponer el tema, sino además de ejercer una fascinación sobre el texto? Para descomponer esa lógica debemos arriesgar la desilusión de también perturbar la ilusión de totalidad en el texto, cuyo poder de transmission es como la autoridad del dictador: una autoridad fundada en el poder de reproducit entre su público esa ilusión de orden por encima de la condición del terror… en otras palabras, un silencio…
Al igural que ese silencio, así también los desaparecidos, los ausentes y las fosas communes autorizan al Estado como la Fuente de la verdad.
Contra esto se levanta un arte que busca una cultura de la resistencia.”
~ Charles Merewether (quoted p.236, Butinx)

Gustavo Butinx once drew a series of quotes and writings together to convey some understanding of the politics and identity of the Madres. I still find some of these ideas thought-provoking… here is his opening, explanatory, statement (followed by quotes from within the essay):

madres-plaza-de-mayo“No es fácil escribir sobre las Madres. Lo que aquí se ofrece no es un texto orgánico y autorizado sino el inicio de una aproximación, construída a modo de collage y pensada para una discusión que no se agote en lo académico.” (Butinx, p.236)

“Pero la de las Madres es también una estrategia simbólica que arrebata al poder el poder de sus imágenes, ocupando y recuperando los vacíos de su retorica, parasitando sus contradicciones. Maternidad, femineidad, familia, religion. El pañal que flameó por primera vez sobre sus cabezas en una peregrinación official a Luján. Los nombres y reclamos “femeninamente” bordados sobre tan piadosos pañuelos. Los clavos de Cristo en la solapa. Los ayunos y retiros. Los encuentros en la iglesia, desde cuyas puertas serían ellas mismas secuestradas. Y esa notable capacidad para revertir el discurso del enemigo: “Las Malvinas son argentinas, los desaparecidos también”.
Pero eran las Madres. Al buscar a sus hijos usaban ingenuamente el sagrado derecho democrático de querer saber” (Osvaldo Bayer). La agudeza así lograda puede ser también interpretada como un doble filo. Ya en 1982 algunas feministas argentinas le comentaban a Jean Elshtain que, por las características de su accionar, las Madres “profundizaron y legitimaron la imagen de la madre de luto como típica e ideal identidad femenina. María del Carmen Feijóo cuestiona una estrategia “basada en los roles reproductores de la mujer que refuerza la convencional division del trabajo.” Pero Martha Ackelsberg y Mary L. Shanley enfrentan estas expresiones con la comprobación propia de cómo las Madres disolvieron las fronteras de lo público y lo privado en sup unto más sensible y al mismo tiempo más resguardado: la construcción de género. “Para proteger y cuidar a sus hijos tuvieron que salir de sus casas y hablar como seres politicos y como ciudadanos”.
Por ser madres ejemplares, dejaron de serlo (Alejandro Diago).” (Butinx, p.238)

“Espacio que se disuelve en tiempo: casi una definición etimológica de la utopia. Tanto más ponderosa pore star articulada a un rito. La Victoria es efímera pero año tras año reiterada. Más que una actuación, cada Marcha de la Resistencia, cada ronda de los jueves, es una actualización. La toma de la Plaza tiene ciertamente una dimension política y estética, pero sobre todo ritual, en el sentido más cargado y antropológico del téermino. No se trata tan solo de generar conciencia sobre el genocidio, sino de revertirlo: recuperar para una vida nueva a los seres queridos atrapados en las fronteras fantasmagóricas de la muerte.” (p.240)

“No solo el presente, también la presencia, esa primera y esencial forma de protesta asumida por las Madres. “Con su sola presencia empezaban a quebrar un sistema” dice Bayer. Los pañuelos-pañales en las procesiones y en los despachos, en los fastos oficiales, en la Plaza de Mayo. La ausencia del hijo encarnada en la presencia ubicua de la madre, iluminando el “cono de sombras” (Piera Oria) con que se pretendía sepultar a los secuestrados en un limbo sin memoria. La silueta actúa como una metáfora inversa pero de igual sentido: el vacío se vuelve pleno en la acción vital de quienes lo (d)enuncian y en ese mismo acto lo llenan. Aparición con vida. No la mera ilustración artística de una consigna sino su realización viva. Las Madres hicimos las siluetas. Esas siluetas eran la presencia de los desaparecidos en la calle (Hebe). Presencia-por-ausencia. Como la de los desaparecidos.” (p.242)

Más que una categoría política, el desaparecido es nuestra figura cultural por excelencia. No lo eliminado sino lo reprimido, en toda la complejidad de ese término. Lo negado, antes que lo proscripto. Pero el triunfo secreto de las Madres es la dialéctica intuitive que les permite revertir esa lógica perverse en sus propios términos. Hacer del desaparecido no el signo desplazado de la muerte sino el proyectivo de la latencia. El retorno de lo reprimido. El eterno retorno del mito.” (p.243)

“Como testimonio las Madres nos ofrecen sus existencias reconstruídas en la búsqueda de los ausentes. “Nuestros hijos nos parieron a nosotras, nos dejaron embarazadas para siempre” (Hebe).” (p.244)

Te seguimos buscando” es la frace característica. “Buscar, esa era la única manera de continuar siendo madre (Hebe)” (quoted p.246)

Ref: (italics in original; emphases in blue bold mine) Gustavo Buntinx (1993) ‘Desapariciones forzadas/ resurreciones míticas (fragmentos)’ pp.236-255, Arte y poder: 5as. Jornadas de Teoria e Historia de las Artes, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (UBA) del 8 al 11 de septiembre de 1993

http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=MPM_isfa_AR_2011_ul

Aggression, well-being and social success in Harry Potter

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Discussing the benefits of aggression to social adaptation, Bukowski and Abecassis use Harry Potter as an example (“a highly popular character who is not free of aggressive acts” (p.204)). They write:

“…one does not need to turn to the ideas of social scientists to find ways of understanding how aggression and adaptation are interrelated. Instead, sometimes one can turn to the list of “best-sellers” to find stories that enlighten. Of all the stories ever told about a young person, few have captured a world-wide audience as thoroughly as the story of Harry Potter…. Millions and millions of readers, many of them young and all young at heart, have followed the adventures of the bespectacled English early-adolescent as he has made his way through life in his school. …Over time… most… have come to see the story about Harry as a parable about friendship, goodness, and the process of growing up in the company of one’s peers. By nearly any definition, Harry is competent, if not extra-competent. He is well-liked, helpful, appropriately competitive, clever, smart, engaging, funny, loyal, sociable, and, yes, at times, a bit aggressive (at least by some definitions). He revels in the warmth of the active, chaotic, and dynamic energy of the Weasley home, his adoptive family. At school, Harry is willing to fight for the good when circumstances call for it. His aggression is regulated and serves functions that most people would regard as acceptable. … Harry is not excessive, self-centered, or indiscriminately harmful. Harry uses aggression as a means of self assertion to achieve goodness when all else has failed. These moments of aggression are not antithetical to the many traditionally positive features we all see in Harry. Instead, they complement them. No one objects when he stands up, even aggressively, to the dreaded and nasty … members of Slytherin, or to Voldemort. … Harry’s readers are with him as they wait, anxiously, for the anticipated moment of his fateful face-to-face encounter with Snape, and, of course, with the extra-evil and horrid Voldemort. Will Harry be aggressive, or even destructive, when these moments arrive? We don’t know yet, but many of us, in our least-pretentious moments, probably hope so and we wouldn’t blame him if he were.” (pp.204-205)

(What did Voldemort do that we felt violence justified?)

“…to some degree, self-assertion and competitiveness are necessary for adaptation, as they promote one’s ability to achieve personal goals. Perhaps by definition, however, acts of aggression contradict one’s capacity to function with others.Insofar as aggression has been often defined as intent to harm, being aggressive means that one is acting against others. …We propose that individuals who do not assert themselves are at risk for being taken advantage of by others and they fail to garner critical resources. Persons who engage in self-assertion to the point of hurting others, however, not only disrupt group functioning but, in doing so, they deny themselves opportunities for basic forms of human relationship. …Although aggression should be discouraged in many cases, at some times it may be an adaptive or even necessary response.” (p.205)

Ref: William M Bukowski and Maurissa Abecassis (2007) self, other, and aggression: the never-ending search for the roots of adaptation. Pp.185-205 in Aggression and Adaptation. The bright side to bad behaviour. Harley, P, Little T, Rodkin P. LEA Publishers London

aggression, well-being and reality TV

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Some years ago, William M Bukowski and Maurissa Abecassis wrote an interesting essay on aggressiveness and its relationship with adaptation. In it, they comment on the appeal of reality TV. The points still stand, I think. They wrote:

“The complexity of the association between aggression and well-being can be seen in places other than the research studies of social scientists. One of these is the ubiquitous domain of pop culture. …Consider for example, the adolescent fondness for competitive reality television programs. In the past 5 years, teenage (and adult) audiences swarmed like locusts to shows where contestants stepped on each other, sometimes literally, to see who could survive, avoid being fired, or get the brass ring that holds the keys to the executive office. One could charitably imagine that the attraction of these shows derived from their postmodernist application of an ironic stance intended to expose the fundamental and inherent flaws of the dog-eat-dog sensibility of the capitalist system. Certainly the use of satire as a form of social commentary has always drawn attention. Nevertheless, the magnetic power of these shows appears to be due to their depiction, albeit exaggerated, of the subtle and not-so-subtle competitive processes that underlie the dynamics of social groups and interpersonal relationships. Perhaps the adolescents (of all ages!) who make up the audiences of these shows see the competitive and multidimensionally aggressive acts of the contestants/participants as very real manifestations of the Darwinian nature of social experience in the peer group. These shows offer viewers an “insider perspective” about how contestants truly feel about one [-p.200] another, their negative feelings and views, and their plans for developing alliances, and fostering doubt and rumor about rivals and the development of planned aggressions toward housemates or challengers. Viewers see how contestants reason, manage, and manipulate feelings and relationships with others to insure their continued survival. To win at these games, one must show competence, social skill, aggression, manipulation, and assertiveness when needed, while still being liked or respected by competitors. The link between adaptation and aggression is clearly evident in these shows.” (pp.199-200)

Ref: William M Bukowski and Maurissa Abecassis (2007) self, other, and aggression: the never-ending search for the roots of adaptation. Pp.185-205 in Aggression and Adaptation. The bright side to bad behaviour. Harley, P, Little T, Rodkin P. LEA Publishers London

Vigilante justice and the legal culture of arrest on suspicion

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I’m interested in the concept of vigilante justice. It seems to me that vigilante justice of a sort is reasonably common in young adult fiction and urban fantasy. Anyway, I read an interesting opinion piece on the topic; Meena Radhakrishna considered several incidents in India represented as vigilante justice by the press, even though in each case those treated to this form of ‘justice’ all proved innocent of the supposed crime.

Radhakrishna writes: “Recent incidents of lynching in different parts of the country have to be viewed in the context of the law itself allowing the arrest of innocent people on mere suspicion, especially denotified and nomadic people.” (p.16)

“, various sociological explanations have been given for occurrence and recurrence of such incidents. The Bihar lynchings in September 2007, especially, aroused a lot of comment. Horrified national and international reactions largely included denouncement of the inefficient and callous law and order machinery in the concerned state (mainly the police), and the failure of the criminal justice system. This analysis reasoned that a public fed up with delays in dispensation of justice decided to take the law into its own hands and “settle scores with the miscreants”. The solutions to this state of affairs were then seen to be, predictably, gearing up of the police, speedier trials and more self-restraint on the part of the public, however provoked.” (p.16)

However, Radhakrishna explains: “There are some commonalities which will bear pointing out emphatically. Firstly, in all the five cases, the communities suspected of theft (in the case of pardhis, of rape and murder), were nomadic/denotified communities. Secondly, in all the cases it is mere suspicion of crime, not the proof of crime which seemed to justify the public killings or other forms of punishment like rape or burning down of a whole village. Thirdly, in all the cases, the mob was not made up of unknown, nameless ‘citizens’ or a faceless ‘crowd’ as implied in the press, but was constituted of identifiable people. …Fourthly, the law and order keepers in all the …cases [described in this article] were actually present or were informed of the incident well in advance and they did nothing to stop the beatings in time to save the lives of those who were caught by the mobs. …” (pp.16-17)

There are no issues of justice to be settled here since we are talking of crimes here which the accused did not commit. In other words, innocent people have been caught and handled recklessly and in a most barbaric manner. How has any “justice”, mob, or instant, or vigilante, been dispensed?
A point to be emphasised here is that the Indian law itself allows apprehending of innocent people under mere suspicion, and denotified and nomadic people are regularly rounded up by the police under the mob was not made up of unknown, nameless “citizens” or a faceless “crowd” caste members of the concerned region. certain preventive sections of the Indian Penal Code (ipc). This gross injustice is something the rest of the civil society is witness to without questioning, encouraging a state of affairs where suspicion will continue to substitute for hard evidence for vulnerable groups. However, this daily injustice on these communities by the police machinery is not the reason for such group violence. It merely helps in justifying it for its perpetrators in the likes of cases cited above.” (p.17)

Thought-provoking stuff!!! This same culture of suspicion standing in for hard evidence is something children face, too, at least in New Zealand and other English-speaking countries I’ve been to. How wide-spread is such a culture?

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine) Meena Radhakrishna (2008) Crime of Vigilante Justice Economic and Political Weekly 43 (2) Jan. 12-18, pp.16-18

Book to check out – Bloody Murder

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Bloody Murder

The Homicide Tradition in Children’s Literature

Michelle Ann Abate

Publication Year: 2013

Given the long-standing belief that children ought to be shielded from disturbing life events, it is surprising to see how many stories for kids involve killing. Bloody Murder is the first full-length critical study of this pervasive theme of murder in children’s literature. Through rereadings of well-known works, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, and The Outsiders, Michelle Ann Abate explores how acts of homicide connect these works with an array of previously unforeseen literary, social, political, and cultural issues. Topics range from changes in the America criminal justice system, the rise of forensic science, and shifting attitudes about crime and punishment to changing cultural conceptions about the nature of evil and the different ways that murder has been popularly presented and socially interpreted. Bloody Murder adds to the body of inquiry into America’s ongoing fascination with violent crime. Abate argues that when narratives for children are considered along with other representations of homicide in the United States, they not only provide a more accurate portrait of the range, depth, and variety of crime literature, they also alter existing ideas about the meaning of violence, the emotional appeal of fear, and the cultural construction of death and dying.

anti-authoritarian characters in children’s fiction

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hombreSo I just read another book that had me thinking about representation of the dictatorship (Argentina)…

El hombre que creía en la luna, by Esteban Valentino (Ilustraciones de Pez. Bogotá, Grupo Editorial Norma, 2000. Colección Torre de Papel; serie Torre Azul.)

I won’t argue that this is such a representation. (Metaphorically, one might make such an argument, but those kind of extrapolated readings annoy me.) What I could say is that this is a story about a village that is convinced so strongly to turn their back on the moon (refusing to mention it, discuss it, acknowledge it, etc.) that they stop going out at night and chastise their children for even hinting at it. (This is engineered by baddies who want to sell the night to turn a quick profit.) hombrecreia2So, what I really did make note of is the character of the Uncle, the lone voice who speaks out against this regime, leaving propaganda in obvious places, challenging people’s fear, talking about the moon to his nephew and generally trying to rally people back to the moon’s cause, in spite of the climate of fear he finds on his arrival. This story turns on the appearance of his character (even though it is told through the eyes of a child protagonist).

So what other books celebrate such characters?

How do child protagonists respond to such characters? (and how ‘should’ they respond?)

What about the adults in such fiction?

Are these characters contextualised by the presence of other characters (eg. here, Los Vendedores de la Noche)

Are particular characters important to the children’s literature of a society (eg. with regards to making sense of a difficult history for its young)? It seems they must be. Do such characters appear with as much regularity in one society as in another? (eg New Zealand / Argentina)… just wondering

https://cityfantasy.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/desaparecidos-and-childrensyoung-adult-literature/

http://www.imaginaria.com.ar/06/2/luna.htm

Violence and time in North America – some thoughts from Isabel Allende

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Actually, as well as liking some of Isabel Allende’s ideas about Memoir and memory, I also found her comments on violence and time interesting. She wrote (and I hope I haven’t eliminated the context in which she writes this):

“I’ve been so thoroughly incorporated into the California culture that I practice mediation and go to a therapist…. I have adapted to the rhythm of this extraordinary place….”

“The North Americans’ sense of time is very special. They are short on patience. Everything must be quick, including food and sex, which the rest of the world treats ceremoniously. Gringos invented two terms that are untranslatable into most languages: ‘snack’ and ‘quickie,’ to refer to eating standing up and loving on the run … that, too, sometimes standing up. The most popular books are manuals: how to become a millionaire in ten easy lessons, how to lose fifteen pounds a week, how to recover from your divorce, and so on. People always go around looking for shortcuts and ways to [-p.189] escape anything they consider unpleasant: ugliness, old age, weight, illness, poverty, and failure in any of its aspects.
This country’s fascination with violence never ceases to shock me. It can be said that I have lived in interesting circumstances, I’ve seen revolutions, war, and urban crime, not to mention the brutalities of the military coup in Chile. Our home in Caracas was broken into seventeen times; almost everything we had was stolen, from a can opener to three cars, two from the street, and the third after the thieves completely ripped off our garage door. At least none of them had bad intentions; one even left a note of thanks stuck to the refrigerator door. Compared to other places on earth, where a child can step on a mine on his way to school and lose two legs, the United States is safe as a convent, but the culture is addicted to violence. Proof of that is to be found in its sports, its games, its art, and, certainly not least, its films, which are bloodcurdling. North Americans don’t want violence in their lives, but they need to experience it indirectly. They are enchanted by war, as long as it’s not on their turf.” (pp.188-189)

Ref: Isabel Allende (2003) My Invented Country: A Memoir. Translated from the Spanish by Margaret Sayers Peden. Flamingo: London

History as fiction and truth

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The following words are from the prologue to Andersen’s Dossier Secreto:

“This book – like the work of those who documented the Holocaust is meant to ensure that the fictionalized account left by the military as their official record of events in the 1970s and 1980s will not be allowed, sometime in the future, to replace fact.” (p.6)

The texts narrating Argentina’s history of violence are interesting to me; with regards to ‘truth’/fiction; with regards to history and historicism; representations of violence; among other things…

Ref: Martin Edwin Andersen (1993) Dossier Secreto; Argentina’s Desaparecidos and the Myth of the ‘Dirty War’ Boulder: Westview Press

Gated communities separate the home environment from the city

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Jill L. Grant explains: Gated communities seek to create safe and quiet private realms that separate the home environment from the city…. In Canada, gated communities have private streets that limit connections to public streets, restrict parking, and often set very low speed limits. Canadian enclaves also usually lack such urban infrastructure as sidewalks. Some larger gated projects in the United States have commercial centers and schools within them: They may share the features of small towns and even seek municipal incorporation (McKenzie 1994; Tessler and Reyes 1999). Design standards are high and often allow a limited palate of colors and forms. The developments presume that residents will own and operate cars. Qualification requirements and narrow pricing ranges ensure a homogeneous population in terms of class, interests (such as golf), and age.” (p.487)

“Private governance proves endemic in new residential developments in the United States (McKenzie 1994, 2005) and appears to be increasingly common in Canada as well. The contemporary city, as Christopherson (1994) suggests, is based on control and separation, with the neighborhood defined as a protected private haven in a potentially dangerous environment. Privatization offers a measure of control that may appeal to nervous residents. In part, this accounts for the lure of both New Urbanist communities
and gated enclaves.” (p.492)

In a sense we can see gated and New Urbanist developments as alternative responses to the perceived crises of contemporary living. Consumers seeking new homes engage in a search not only for somewhere to live, but also for a neighborhood where they might find civility, community, identity, and character. Developers of enclaves and traditional communities try to sell these commodities.
Concerns about civility characterize a society in which murder, violence, rape, and other crimes flood the headlines in the daily news media and television shows about the police, the court system, and forensic pathology top the ratings. Fears about crime and “bad behavior” motivate the desire to find urban forms that might control behavior. The promise that good urban form can recreate the safe and comfortable town or village of days gone by, where people knew each other and felt secure, proves extremely alluring (Grant 2005a). New Urbanism seeks to tame behavior by making visitors feel that they might be observed at any time and by employing devices such as front porches and community retail to create interaction points for residents. Reconstituting the form of the traditional town or village aims to resocialize urban residents to appropriate behavior.” (p.492)

The search for community has deep roots in North America (Talen 2000). A perceived loss of connection with others and the hope of confronting difference in ways that avoid conflict contribute to the search for integrated social environments.” (p.493)

“In a context of increasing social polarization and global urbanization, enclaves create space for inclusive communities of like-minded souls. Beneath the veneer of a tolerant society that celebrates diversity may lurk a disdain for difference that drives gated development.” (p.496)

Ref: Jill L. Grant (2007): Two sides of a coin? New urbanism and gated communities, Housing Policy Debate, 18:3, 481-501