Filling the Absence: the re-embodiment of sites of mass atrocity and the practices they generate

Kerry Whigham


Despite the particularities that are present within every instance of genocide or state terror, one thing they all share is that, once the physical violence ends, there are always sites that are left behind, many of which contain material reminders or even concrete evidence of the violations that occurred within their boundaries. By focusing specifically on la Escuela Mecánica de la Armada (ESMA), the largest former concentration camp in Argentina, this article examines these sites as places that allow for a certain set of shared, embodied practices to be performed both by the curators or organizers of the sites, as well as the visitors to the sites. I argue that it is never the spaces themselves, but rather the practices that transpire within these spaces and through the process of transforming the space from a site of atrocity into a site of memory that influence the constructive processing of past violence. They do so through their ability to make people re-encounter and re-activate the past in the present.

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Copyright (c) 2015 Kerry Whigham

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