13 Jan 2012 - 14 Jan 2012 All day Faculty of Law, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ



Jordana Blejmar (Darwin College/Centre of Latin American Studies)

Natalia Fortuny (University of Buenos Aires)


Conference Summary



In the wake of many years of sustained political violence and military dictatorships in Latin America, images have played a crucial role in the construction of the traumatic past. Photography, performance, cinema, visual arts and urban interventions have exercised diverse strategies of assembly and transmission of memories between generations. The papers of this symposium will centre around, although they will also go beyond, three overarching contemporary features of these productions.

First, current cultural approaches to the recent Latin American past have brought to light new reconfigurations of the public-private dichotomy. Emerging in a context of the ‘crisis of testimony’ (Laub), the fall of Public Man (Senett), the exhaustion of substantial communities and the publicisation of the intimate through new technologies (what Paula Sibilia called ‘extimidad’), these artworks are marked by a subjective tone, using (auto)fiction to explore and construct identity in the post-dictatorship scene. Is the focus on the private life of the victims that characterises these ‘poetics of the I’ a symptom of the withdrawal of politics from the public sphere, or is it rather the consequence of a major displacement defined by the understanding of the relationship between the private and the public as political?

Second, when engaging with the recent past of State violence in cultural productions, the younger generations in Latin America are strikingly interdisciplinary in their approach: their performances use music, photography and cinema in their staging; their film documentaries break the rules of genre by repressing fact and instead introducing animation and fiction to depict memory work; and their photographic essays are accompanied by poems and performance. The papers will thus explore the original aesthetics of these visual memories marked by the use of montage, collage, fragmentation, hybrid genres, anachronisms, and the cross-over between fiction and testimony, as a means to understand the ways in which the political events of the second half of the twentieth century have shaped and redefined Latin American cultural production.

Finally, we invite the papers to examine the generational dialogues proposed by these exercises of memory. What links between generations define these images? How do they engage with issues such as family, community, and legacy? Is the memory of the new generations a new type of memory (sometimes called ‘postmemory’ (Hirsch)) or there is no substantial difference between their memory and that of their elders? Has the idea of generation replaced the idea of class as a mark of belonging in current times?

We expect challenging and exciting discussions over the two days of the symposium and we would like to invite anyone interested in these topics to come and share their views with the discussants.




Supported by the Centre for Research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (CRASSH) and the Centre of Latin American Studies Bolivar Fund, both at the University of Cambridge.


Accommodation for non-paper giving delegates

We are unable to arrange accommodation, however, the following websites may be of help.

Visit Cambridge
Cambridge Rooms
University of Cambridge accommodation webpage

NB. CRASSH is not able to help with the booking of accommodation.


Administrative assistance: Helga Brandt (Conference Programme Manager, CRASSH)


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk