With Estela de Carlotto at the House of Lords

It was such an honour to respond to the incredible story of Estela de Carlotto on the occasion of her visit to the UK and the House of Lords. On 29th March 2022, Estela spoke to the All Party Parliamentary Committee for the Prevention of Genocide. Vikki Bell was invited by the Argentine Embassy to do a short response, to talk a little about our research projects and to share our report. It was an occasion to discuss the ESMA’s bid to become listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site, and to celebrate the inspirational example of the Madres and the Abuelas in Argentina.

Here is an excerpt from my comments:

‘To keep asking the simple question ‘donde estan?’ ‘where are they?’ in Argentina, as in Chile, has been a way of marking successive governments’ silences. The repetition of the question is a way of allowing the silences to be heard, to be marked, and to become remarkable. This work has been a way, then, of showing that the social body does not relinquish its norms and values when a dictatorship is in power. This courage and tenacity of the mothers and Abuelas – as well as the aesthetic and the practical strategies of resistance and mutual support – continue in the work of generations after them, as it will do in those to come. The use of their slogans, and images, for example, continued to be deployed around the world and indeed within Argentina, so that they continue to do work in the interests of social justice by for example being used to draw attention to instances of police violence.

‘the social body does not relinquish its norms and values when a dictatorship is in power’

The story of the ESMA building has also been a remarkable one. When I arrived in Argentina on my first research trip in 2006 it was the first place we visited. And at the time the decision had been made to keep it empty, and you had to have permission to visit it. There were many complex and sophisticated debates about its future. Amongst other things the argument to leave the building as it was drew upon Lyotard’s warning that extreme events may be forgotten if represented because representations reduce and contain what exceeds the possibility of representation. Since that time the context and the challenges have changed and the ESMA has become a very important site of memory and of educating the next generation. The risk of representation has been taken but in a truly careful and thoughtful manner. Alejandra Naftal and her team have worked hard to balance differing perspectives on the building and to bring new audiences into the space.’

Separator image Posted in News.