Graffiti, memory and contested space : mnemonic initiatives following trauma and/or repression in Buenos Aires, Argentina
Kaipainen, Erin E. Armi.
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Graffiti, Memory and Contested Space: Mnemonic Initiatives Following Periods of Trauma and/or Repression in Buenos Aires, Argentina This thesis concerns the popular articulation ofmemory following periods or incidents of trauma in Argentina. I am interested in how groups lay claim to various public spaces in the city and how they convert these spaces into mnemonic battlegrounds. In considering these spaces of trauma and places of memory, I am primarily interested in how graffiti writing (stencils, spray-paint, signatures, etchings, wall-paintings, murals and installations) is used to make these spaces transmit particular memories that impugn official versions of the past. This thesis draws on literatures focused on popular/public memory. Scholars argue that memory is socially constructed and thus actively contested. Marginal initiatives such as graffiti writing challenge the memory projects of the state as well as state projects that are perceived by citizens to be 'inadequate,' 'inappropriate,' and/or as promoting the erasure of memory. Many of these initiatives are a reaction to the proreconciliation and pro-oblivion strategies of previous governments. I outline that the history of silences and impunity, and a longstanding emphasis on reconciliation at the expense of truth and justice has created an environment of vulnerable memory in Argentina. Popular memory entrepreneurs react by aggressively articulating their memories in time and in space. As a result of this intense memory work, the built landscape in Buenos Aires is dotted with mnemonic initiatives that aim to contradict or subvert officially sanctioned memories. I also suggest that memory workers in Argentina persistently and carefially use the sites of trauma as well as key public spaces to ensure official as well as popular audiences . The data for this project was collected in five spaces in Buenos Aires, the Plaza de Mayo, Plaza Congreso, La Republica Cromanon nightclub, Avellaneda Train Station and El Olimpo, a former detention centre from the military dictatorship.