Nancy Gates Madsen is Associate Professor of Spanish at Luther College. She has published articles about the legacies of authoritarianism in Argentina on topics ranging from monuments and memorials to the representation of torture. Her book, Trauma, Taboo, and Truth-Telling: Listening to Silences in Postdictatorship Argentina (UW Press, 2016) explores how silences and taboo shape the expressive culture of politics and human rights. She is also the co-translator of Violet Island and Other Poems, an anthology of the work of Cuban poet Reina María Rodríguez. Her latest project explores the intersections between ecological issues and human rights in Latin American cultural production.
About the presentation: The LACIS lunch time series talk will be entitled Taboos and Human Rights in Argentina and it will address the fact that Argentina has been hailed for the pioneering steps it has taken to break the silences left in the wake of the 1976-83 military dictatorship. Truth commissions and trials aimed to voice crimes of the past in a public manner, while the memory "boom" of the mid-1990s brought to light previously suppressed narratives of torture, disappearance, or the appropriation of babies. Yet even stories that seek to expose the horrors of the dictatorship may generate uncomfortable silences. Her talk explores this fallout of the memory “boom,” pockets of silence left in the wake of the explosion of memory discourse that signal uncomfortable or unpalatable legacies of the dictatorship, such as a torture victim’s capacity for “betrayal” or a recovered grandchild’s ambivalence toward identity restitution. Looking at tales of trauma with an eye (or ear) to silence exposes the limits that govern truth-telling about past violence, even among the very groups and individuals who demand accountability.