Foreword: On Memory and Memorials
l u i s a va l e n z u e l a
t r a n s l a t e d b y c a t h e r i n e j a g o e
One of the problems facing us in these times, defined by Zygmunt Bauman
as Liquid Modernity, is that everything becomes diluted, in a constant,
disconcerting flux. Even words, I believe. They either flow or they stagnate,
losing their true nature. The word “memory,” for example, runs the risk of
becoming a mere label or an empty signifier into which everything fits, so
nothing has value. True value, not mere exchange value.
I have consulted many texts to write these few words, for a good book
always elicits further reflection and investigation. It will never tell us what
or how to think, but instead broadens our horizons of thought and illumi-
nates obscure areas of topics so familiar we tend to pass over them.
This volume, edited by Ksenija Bilbija and Leigh A. Payne, is one such
catalyst. Both editors have been analyzing the issue for a long time, as shown
by their scholarly work on the legacies of authoritarianism and the anthol-
ogy entitled The Art of Truth-Telling about Authoritarian Rule. Accounting
for Violence: Marketing Memory in Latin America represents a change of
direction. It is not about remembering or avoiding the past, but about how
to keep remembrance alive without losing respect. The various essays point
to the razor’s edge we are treading, and to the chasms yawning on either side
into which it is very easy to slip. There is a strong pull from those in favor
of oblivion at all costs, those who accept the two Argentine laws known as
“Due Obedience” and “Full Stop” as well as the pardons. They say we need
to clean the slate and start over (borrón y cuenta nueva). According to them,
nothing happened here; you cannot live in the past. They demand we turn
the page.
But when you turn that page the other tendency appears, the chasm on
the opposite side: those who seek to profit in one way or another from oth-
ers’ pain and the morbid curiosity of some audiences. They degrade the
word “memory,” misusing it to the point where it loses its meaning.
We would not be able to concentrate on the razor’s edge if we did not
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