Public spectacle is a locus and mechanism of commu-
nal identity through collective imaginings that constitute "nation" as "an imag-
ined political community." I focus on Argentina's "Dirty War"
explore how public spectacle both builds and dismantles a sense of community
and nation-ness, how it both forges and erases images of national and gender
identity, how it stirs and manipulates desire, allowing a population insight into
events and blinding it to the meaning of its situation, how it presents both an
invitation to cross the line between actor and spectator, and a prohibition. But,
in a way, this is not so much a study "about" Argentina as about how a small
group of power brokers (in this case the military) engenders and controls a
viewing public through the performance of national identity, traditions, and
This study began when I inadvertently crossed the actor/spectator line and
became suddenly caught up in the Argentine spectacle of gender and national-
ism. Like an unsuspecting spectator, I stumbled onto the wrong play. It began
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