Absent yet still present: family pictures in Argentina's recordatorios



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This study analyzes one of the most active memories of state repression during democracy in Argentina: the memorial advertisements (recordatorios) of those disappeared by the most recent military dictatorship (1976-1983), which are published on a daily basis in the newspaper Página/12. In this thesis, I focus on the pictures of the victims of state repression that appear within the frame of these memorials as the expression of both cultural and personal memory. The leader of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, Estela de Carlotto, published the first recordatorio on the tenth anniversary of her daughter’s death, in August 1988. During that same year, 20 relatives of disappeared people went to the newspaper and followed Carlotto’s footsteps, publishing advertisements themselves. Currently, more than 20 years after the first advertisement was published, three to five recordatorios appear in the newspaper every day. The emergence of the recordatorios inaugurates a new discursive genre as contradictory as the disappearance itself. On the one hand, they are connected to the announcements related to the search for missing people (serving the goal of finding a person alive). On the other hand, the recordatorios also resemble obituaries (making a tribute to someone that has passed away). The recordatorio thus emerges as an impossible reality, following the logic of both genres, thus performing both functions in a paradoxical way. This study focuses on the family pictures that appear in the recordatorios and sheds light on how they illustrate the entanglement of the family and the public sphere, and contribute to the debate on the role of personal subjectivity in the construction of collective memory. From a multidisciplinary perspective, the present thesis aims to capture the complexity surrounding these texts and the familial imagery they include, looking at the inherent tension between the private tragedy of a family that has lost one of its members and the public character that stems from their publication in one of Argentina’s national newspapers.