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Book Review, Current Issue, Vol. 31 No.3

Memory, Transitional Justice, and Theatre in Postdictatorship Argentina

Memory, Transitional Justice, and Theatre in Postdictatorship Argentina. Noe Montez. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2017; Pp. 239 + xi.

The precarious era of Argentina’s dictatorship (1976-1982) stifled political resistance and artistic expression. However, the years following the administrative regimes of Jorge Rafael Videla, Emilio Massera, and Leopoldo Galtieri prompted many people in the newly democratic Argentina to reflect upon and recoup their national identities. Noe Montez’s Memory, Transitional Justice, and Theatre in Postdictatorship Argentina considers (re)emerging individual and collective memory narratives and their effects on judicial policies in Argentina’s transitional postdictatorship period. Drawing on contemporary research in memory studies and theatre history, Montez recounts the momentous artistic reactions to policies implemented by the administrations of Carlos Menem, Néstor Carlos Kirchner Jr., and Cristina Kirchner. In so doing, Montez’s text contributes to a growing repertoire of Argentine works in the field of performance studies. As Montez himself rightly notes, the vast majority of scholarship on theatrical responses to the dictatorship tends to focus on the oeuvres of more internationally renowned playwrights such as Ricardo Bartis, Griselda Gambaro, and Eduardo Pavlovsky, whose works were staged during or directly following the dictatorship. Instead, Montez charts the trajectory of emerging directors, playwrights, actors, designers, and companies that flourished in Buenos Aires during this transitional era.

Montez divides his book into four chapters, arranged chronologically to highlight theatrical productions that reacted to each administration’s approach to transitional justice and contributed to collective memory. Chapter one explores “disconstructive resistances,” a term that is never fully unpacked but appears to refer to the disjuncture between collective memory narratives and state-sanctioned memory narratives constructed and propagated by the Menem administration’s Truth and Reconciliation hearings held from 1989 to 1999. Each of the four plays that Montez examines in this chapter considers the limitations of state-sanctioned narratives of impunity, to say nothing of clemency and amnesty policies, directed toward those in office accused of human rights violations. Montez devotes a substantial amount of space to key performance groups and playwrights including El Periférico de Objetos, Javier Daulte, Marcelo Bertuccio, and Luis Cano. He describes their use of multimedia and avant-garde artistic practices to advance their political agendas; by exposing the artifice of authorized modes of remembrance, these artists resisted the Menem administration’s politics of erasure.

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