With the turn of the century, the process of dealing with the still unresolved human rights abuses under authoritarian regimes and civil wars in Latin America has been significantly reinvigorated. Truth, reconciliation, and justice efforts have been revisited, trials of people involved with violence, torture, abductions, murders, and disappearances have been (re)opened, and new interpretations and questions about what happened have been raised. The difficulties of coming to terms with not only the horror of extreme violence typical of (dirty and civil) wars but also the precariousness of justice processes postwar have permeated ebullient memory mobilizations and reconciliation efforts.
Simple answers to the quintessential “Who is to be blamed?” and “How to move on?” have been put to rest, and a widespread recognition of the severe complexities of past, present, and future has taken hold. Did the violence actually begin before the establishment of military regimes or the eruption of civil wars because of indefensible structural inequalities? How can all the targets of violence be recognized with certainty without exacerbating latent conflicts? Are the limitations of democratization/pacification processes simply unavoidable, and, if so, will the struggles for memory, truth, and justice never end? Is current victimization a continuation of past oppression? How can the arbitrariness of abusive power relations be dealt with? Are justice, reconciliation, and social equality possible, or are they utopian ideals worth pursuing despite persistent dynamics of marginalization?
This international project analyzes the emergence of what I conceptualized as a second wave of memory, truth, and justice mobilizations—the first wave having occurred early on with transitions into democratic regimes and the signing of peace accords. A multidisciplinary group of authors expose complexities and contradictions in the processes of collective memory and justice seeking by looking into the way they form over time, change in character and reach, create new meanings, raise new demands, and influence other policy, legal, and cultural spheres. The studies include countries with a longer repertoire of policies and scholarship on memory and justice (such as Argentina and Chile), as well as research about countries that were newer to them (such as Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Mexico), emphasizing the relevance of taking on a critical, postcolonial, activist perspective in order to contribute to the advancement of the very processes of memory, truth and justice in the region.
A survivor of Argentina's military regime, I am proud to have seen this project grow from my own analysis of repression in my country (in Pascale, 2012) to an edited collection of three Latin American Perspectives issues (42:3, 43:5, 43:6) and a text for classroom use (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017). Also, in 2019, a selection of articles was published in Spanish and Portuguese in the LAP/CLACSO new journal collaborative (volume II). Moreover, in 2020, I was interviewed for a podcast discussing the continued relevance of this project given the sociopolitical developments in Latin America of the last couple of years - Listen to it here!