Accepted Paper:

Being both self and other in post-dictatorship Argentina  


Noa Vaisman (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

How do individuals contend with conflicting legacies that bring together perpetrators and victims of human rights violations? In this paper I explore the different ways in which the “living disappeared” of Argentina make sense of a relational reality that blurs the boundaries between self and other.

Paper long abstract:

In the aftermath of mass human rights violations transitional justice processes help construct a world where clearly bounded groups are produced. In most contexts, victims are separated from perpetrators and the latter are cast as the Other of the newly emerging post-conflict nation. And while for juridical and political purposes these distinctions may be useful, in practice the boundaries between groups—victims and perpetrators—are blurred. That is, victims can also be perpetrators and perpetrators victims. This muddled reality can give rise to innumerable variations, raising, in turn, questions about the moral world constructed through post-conflict transitional justice processes. Focusing my attention on the blurred boundaries between Self and Other in this paper I examine the case of the "living disappeared" of Argentina.

During the last military dictatorship (1976-1983) close to 500 infants were abducted by the regime. Once separated from their biological families, their identities were altered and they were illegally adopted/appropriated by members of the Armed Forced or their accomplices. Today these individuals—the "living disappeared"—are being identified using DNA identity tests. Once identified they must contend on the one hand, with the history and the legacy of their disappeared parents and, on the other hand, with the legacy of their historically, politically and socially constructed kin relations. These relations tie them, in many cases, to the perpetrators of the crime directly. Examining the different paths to identification and restitution of these individuals I consider the meaning of Other and Self when they co-exist in the same bounded subject.

Panel P26
Nationalism, democracy and morality: a historical and anthropological approach to the role of moral sentiments in contemporary politics