Title

Truth Commissions and Collective Memory in Latin America

Presentation Type

Presentation

Abstract

Human rights violations have an enormous effect on future generations and have the potential to divide or unite society in their wake. My research examines how a national, collective memory is formed after human rights abuse occurs, and how the work of a truth commission contributes to this process. My hypothesis is that when a truth commission is instated after an experience of human rights abuse, a nation will be better able to reconcile conflicted memories and experiences and to create a unified, collective memory of that human rights experience. Another component of my hypothesis is that, in order to be effective in collective memory facilitation, a truth commission should have strong investigative and reporting powers, make detailed recommendations for future action, and have a broad mandate. I used a case study approach of Latin American countries—Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These countries vary in their respective truth commission mandate, the commission’s investigative and reporting powers, and recommendations made by the commission. In order to gain a detailed understanding of the collective memory situation in each nation, I examined different elements of memory, including memorials, monuments, museums, and days of commemoration. I examined the number, location, and timing of memorials and monuments, and their relationship to the recommendations and timing of the truth commission. I also noted the presence of a museum or day of commemoration to honor the human rights abuse. This research provides a foundation for examining the consequences of human rights violations and links the separate lines of research that exist on truth commissions and on collective memory. An understanding of the impact of truth commissions on memory will help nations in the future to determine the most effective ways to heal from human rights abuse.

Category

Social Sciences

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Truth Commissions and Collective Memory in Latin America

UC 327

Human rights violations have an enormous effect on future generations and have the potential to divide or unite society in their wake. My research examines how a national, collective memory is formed after human rights abuse occurs, and how the work of a truth commission contributes to this process. My hypothesis is that when a truth commission is instated after an experience of human rights abuse, a nation will be better able to reconcile conflicted memories and experiences and to create a unified, collective memory of that human rights experience. Another component of my hypothesis is that, in order to be effective in collective memory facilitation, a truth commission should have strong investigative and reporting powers, make detailed recommendations for future action, and have a broad mandate. I used a case study approach of Latin American countries—Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, and Guatemala. These countries vary in their respective truth commission mandate, the commission’s investigative and reporting powers, and recommendations made by the commission. In order to gain a detailed understanding of the collective memory situation in each nation, I examined different elements of memory, including memorials, monuments, museums, and days of commemoration. I examined the number, location, and timing of memorials and monuments, and their relationship to the recommendations and timing of the truth commission. I also noted the presence of a museum or day of commemoration to honor the human rights abuse. This research provides a foundation for examining the consequences of human rights violations and links the separate lines of research that exist on truth commissions and on collective memory. An understanding of the impact of truth commissions on memory will help nations in the future to determine the most effective ways to heal from human rights abuse.