Haunted Objects: Spectral Testimony in the Southern Cone Post-Dictatorship

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Haunted Objects: Spectral Testimony in the Southern Cone Post-Dictatorship

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This dissertation examines the role of the everyday, common object in relation to the human experience and capacity to give testimony--to communicate experiences of trauma, torture and suffering. In my research, I seek to bring together a number of subfields: theoretical interpretation of testimonial narratives, trauma theory, memory studies, spectral theory, and object-oriented philosophy, in order to "think with things" in my analysis of narratives emerging in Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile (three of the countries that make up the area known as the Southern Cone) in what is called the "Post-Dictatorship" period. Basing my analysis on testimonial narratives written by survivors in Argentina, as well as interviews I conducted with former political prisoners in Chile and Uruguay, the first part of my project considers the important role material objects had for those who were imprisoned and survived torture and mistreatment during the dictatorships. I argue that these accounts demonstrate a reliance on the material world, meaning the prisoner/detainee during his/her detention used the secret possession of objects, along with acts of artistic creation, as a means of re-building and expressing a semblance of autonomous subjectivity and resisting the total destruction of his/her world. The second part of my project moves to the period of the post-dictatorship, exploring how this changed relationship to the material world shapes the creation of new narratives that seek to remember the period of the dictatorship and transmit this information to society in Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay today. Examining the narrative logic of texts, museum expositions, and artistic endeavors that use objects from the dictatorship period to teach about the traumatic past, I examine how the material of the past (prison craftwork, corporal remains, and the former belongings of the disappeared) is endowed with a testimonial capacity and used to effect change in the present, communicating the atrocities of the past in order to ensure that human rights abuses never occur again in the future.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2014. Major: Hispanic and Luso Literatures, Cultures & Linguistics. Advisor: Ana Forcinito. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 232 pages.

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Corbin, Megan. (2014). Haunted Objects: Spectral Testimony in the Southern Cone Post-Dictatorship. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/182250.

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