Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Remembering a Different Future: Dissident Memories and Identities in Contemporary Chilean Culture

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posted on 2021-11-22, 19:41 authored by Preston, Jon

There have been two key episodes of conflict in the history of Chile since independence upon which contemporary Chilean society has arguably been founded. The first was the military domination of the indigenous Mapuche by the state, known as the ‘Pacificación de la Araucanía’, which spanned two decades between 1861 and 1883. The second commenced in 1973 with the coup d’état against the democratically elected president, Salvador Allende, and continued for 16-and-a-half years as Chile was ruled by Augusto Pinochet’s civic-military dictatorship. These conflicts and their far-reaching consequences form the basis for ongoing disputes in Chilean society today, despite the efforts of official state discourses to silence and gloss over these divisive events in the name of reconciliation and governability.  This thesis examines a selection of forms of contemporary cultural production that interact with Chile’s conflictive past and challenge official discourses of silence and forgetting. These cultural texts include the poetry of David Aniñir, the autobiographical books and films of Carmen Castillo, and sites of memory honouring victims of the dictatorship. Between them, they represent and reflect upon the historic and contemporary oppression of the Mapuche, repression and human rights abuses during Pinochet’s dictatorship, and the ongoing debates and struggles over this past and its consequences in the present.  This study employs a range of theoretical frameworks, given the varied nature of its subject matter. The analysis of Aniñir’s poetry relies on key concepts from Latin American cultural criticism, such as Antonio Cornejo Polar’s heterogeneity and Néstor García Canclini’s hybridity. The study of Castillo’s work draws on trauma studies, including concepts such as acting out and working through, as theorised by Dominick LaCapra, and the competing notion of working toward, in addition to Dori Laub’s work on survivor testimony and critical debates around the concept of nostalgia. Scholarship on memory studies and memorialisation frames the examination of sites of memory, including Maurice Halbwachs’s conceptualisation of collective memory and Pierre Nora’s foundational work on lieux de mémoire. In particular, Patrizia Violi’s notion of ‘trauma sites’ is central to the theoretical debate on the subject of Chilean memorialisation.  Overall, this thesis seeks to contribute to scholarship by offering original and innovative readings of all three cultural forms, and analyses both well-known cultural texts in their respective fields and others that have received little critical attention to date. Moreover, it is one of the first works to juxtapose and explicitly consider the links between the plights of the Mapuche and the victims of Pinochet’s dictatorship through a study of their cultural representations. Consequently, this thesis broadens the focus of historical memory in Chilean cultural studies, which has typically centred on the context of the dictatorship, to also encompass the experiences of Chile’s largest indigenous culture.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Latin American Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Languages and Cultures


Arnedo-Gomez, Miguel; Leggott, Sarah