Trauma and the struggle for accountability in Argentina

Mariana Tello Weiss is a researcher on trauma, memory and human rights and an activist in an organisation that represents the children of those murdered, displaced, or exiled during the dictatorship. She took part in the Mandela Dialogues on Memory Work 1.

Coming to terms with the atrocities committed during the military dictatorship has been central in Mariana’s professional life for a long time now. She is trained as a psychologist and an anthropologist and specializes in the anthropology of political violence. For about ten years she was working as a researcher at the memory center “La Perla”, a former torture site, and supporting survivors and witnesses of the crimes. Also, she actively participated in the demand for justice for the victims and punishment of those guilty of murder, genocide, and torture as a member of the victims' association H.I.J.O.S.

During the past years, political discourses as well as collective remembering of violence went through different stages that eventually led to the legal persecution of the perpetrators. By the time Mariana decided to participate in the Mandela Dialogues, Argentina faced the trials, which fuelled the discussion about reconciliation and condemnation. Against this backdrop, Mariana grappled with the role of moral judgment and formal justice processes in dealing with trauma and suffering.

In her paper provided below, she describes the struggle for a culture of remembrance in Argentina and gives insights into its societal framework. She presented it at the panel “Social and cultural trauma. Reminders of past events affecting people and everyday lives of our societies” of the conference “Memory, justice and reconciliation?! International Dialogue”, that emanated from the lab.

Today, Mariana is a researcher in a scientific organisation documenting human rights violations. In this position, too, she pursues her mission: Contributing to processing the authoritarian past and strengthening democracy. She hopes that like this, the deep divides in the Argentinian society might be overcome one day.

“The Lab was for me a very important opportunity to grow, it was the chance to renew and review my commitment with memory work after 20 years.”

Mariana Tello Weiss

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