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Browsing by Author "Calderón Westö, Laura Maria"

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  • Calderón Westö, Laura Maria (2015)
    This is an ethnographic study about memory politics and social repair in Peru. The main focus is on the localized memory practices used in the everyday by family members who have disappeared loved ones as a consequence of the internal armed conflict that took place in Peru in 1980–2000. There are over 15,000 disappeared persons in Peru, something that continues to cause disruption in the daily domestic lives of families making national reconciliatory practices and questions dealing with reparations and recovery highly problematic, causing further disintegration in communities and in society at large. The research asks what are these memory practices used by family members of forcefully disappeared and in what way do they aid social reconstruction and recovery? The research suggests that family members adopt these localized practices as a way to uphold the memory of their disappeared but also as a way to re-weave the disruption that the disappearance has caused in their lives back into their mundane everyday. A four-month period of fieldwork was realized in 2014 from March to June. With the help of the Peruvian forensic anthropology team (EPAF) family members of forcefully disappeared were interviewed both in the capital of Lima as well as in the highlands of Peru, in Ayacucho. These experiences of violence are used in the research to formulate a view from the perspective of the family members (mostly wives and mothers) into the violence that disrupted their domestic everyday. It is not a comparative study, seeing as comparing such vast entities would not render very reliable results, and as the data is not so extensive as to make such generalized assumptions. The focus remains therefore on individual family members that form an emblematic group in the memory scene of Peru. The main method of participant observation combined with meticulous field notes and photographing has enabled an array of observations, which provide a particular analytical depth to the research. Complemented by semi-structured (taped) interviewing and discussion (all in Spanish), as well as subsequent research through the social media, the research presents a current view into the memory work done in Peru. The analysis is done through, firstly anthropological theory on memory, which focuses on how memory can be of use in anthropology’s endeavour to understand cultural continuity and social reproduction, and secondly through anthropological theory on social repair, which focuses on how individuals seek to rebuild their lives after mass violence. This often entails memory practices, which is why these two focal theoretical guidelines have been chosen to analyse the post-conflict situation in Peru. The research views memory as fundamentally social practice. An underlying theme is the moral task a nation has to address its conflicting past, which is why this research benefits from an interdisciplinary view on addressing the past: in encompassing views from psychology, law and history it discusses through truth com-missions and judicial trials, testimony and trauma issues that continue to be of relevance in today’s world. In providing a view on the memory work done in Peru the research seeks to contribute to the growing literature of transitional justice and social repair in post-conflict situations. There are intricacies about Peru as a case study for post-conflict memory work and social recovery that boil down to the very intimate nature of the violence experienced for two decades. The multi-ethnic and pluricultural country has been divided along racial, ethnic, gender and cultural lines since before its independence, which is why this research argues that the recovery process must begin at establishing social relationships and communal bonds, and ridding the society of the polarized and racist atmosphere. The research has concluded that measures taken in the state-level to address the disruptions in the past and to repair the people have actually worked to further exclude and ostracize a certain part of the population, creating an atmosphere where memory struggles to survive. In stigmatizing certain memories, for example those of the family members of forcefully disappeared, a fear of the fleeting permanence of memory is created. This leads to the creation of new memory practices, that this research views as great examples of the resourceful nature of people. In analysing two manifestations of memory – a memorial in Lima and a memory place in Ayacucho – the research attempts to illuminate the highly politicized nature of memory in Peru. In focusing on the ways people narrate experiences of violence – such as a testimony, storytelling or emplaced witnessing – the research demonstrates how the focus should be on the remembering and on the telling instead of the memory and the tale, because it is this sort of strategic storytelling that has become a way for the family members to re-weave their disappeared loved ones back into the fabric of society.