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Lecture Series: Echoes of Violence: Postmemory and Indigenous Voice after the War in Peru

Event Type
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)
101 International Studies Building, 910 S. Fifth Street, Champaign
Apr 24, 2014   12:00 pm  
Jonathan Ritter, Chair, Latin American Studies Program; Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology, University of California, Riverside
Angelina Cotler
Originating Calendar
Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS)

A decade after Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the publication of its final report in 2003, Peruvians continue to struggle over how the political violence that devastated their country in the 1980s and 90s should be remembered. Recent events, including controversies surrounding the tenth anniversary of the commission’s work as well as ongoing debates over the legitimacy and accuracy of public commemorations of the conflict’s victims, reinforce the consensus view that truth commissions mark the beginning, rather than the end, of processes of historical reflection, revision, and reconciliation. In this paper, I consider various musical interventions into these post-TRC processes and debates in Peru, focusing in particular on those that claim to represent the voices and perspectives of the conflict’s victims: predominantly rural, indigenous peasants from the southern Andean highlands. While some of these musical interventions arise directly within indigenous communities, including the composition and performance of testimonial songs in contests sponsored by human rights organizations, others draw upon anthropological research and the TRC report itself to craft fictionalized representations of indigenous music for recent “testimonial” films and novels. Though such representations carry inherent risks, both of sensationalizing the violence and overemphasizing the alterity of indigenous responses to it, they also play a key role in mediating and transmitting traumatic memories of the war to what Marianne Hirsch (2008) has called the “postmemory generation,” those born or raised after the conflict whose lives are nonetheless shaped and haunted by it.

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