Battling for Hearts and Minds
Between 1973 and 1988, General Augusto Pinochet and his collaborators
ruled Chile with an iron will. Violent repression, however, was not their only
instrument of rule. Pinochet and the regime also waged and won, and then
waged and lost, a battle to win Chilean hearts and minds.
The memory question—how to record and remember the crisis that
yielded a military coup on 11 September 1973, how to record and remember
the reality and violence of military rule—proved central to this struggle for
politicocultural legitimacy. This book studies the dramatic memory strug-
gles that unfolded under the dictatorship, from the crisis and coup of 1973
through the defeat of Pinochet in a plebiscite that backfired in 1988. Al-
though this book does not dwell on theory or method as such, its working
method is to trace the formation and social impact of ‘‘memory knots’’—that
is, the specific human groups and leaders, specific events and anniversary
or commemoration dates, and specific physical remains or places that de-
manded attention to memory. Elsewhere (in Book One of this trilogy), I have
provided a theoretical discussion of the role of specific sites of humanity,
time, and space as ‘‘memory knots on the social body’’ that unsettle the
complacency or ‘‘unthinking habits’’ of everyday life, and stir up polemics
about memory in the public imagination.∞ Informed by that theoretical
approach, this book focuses on social actors and human networks seeking
to find and shape meanings of the traumatic past-within-the-present, that is,
to push the memory-truths they considered urgent into the public domain.
It focuses too on the emergence of ‘‘unforgettable’’ times and places—a
calendar of sacred events, pseudoevents, and anniversaries on the one hand,
a geography of sacred remains, sites, and material symbols on the other.
These compelling knots in time and space galvanized appeals for moral or
political awareness, drew people into identifying with one or another frame-
work of memory-truth, and inspired some to join the social actors who
‘‘performed’’ memory work and identification in public spaces.