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Family Imaginaries and Postmemory in Chilean Narrative: Andrea Jeftanovic’s Escenario de guerra and Lina Meruane’s Cercada

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Part of the Comparative Feminist Studies Series book series (CFS)

Abstract

The need to give meaning to a traumatic historical and personal experience has been an ongoing theme in the literature produced in Chile in the past thirty years. The brutal force and stark violence experienced by Chileans during the Pinochet dictatorship (1973–89) has left an intractable trauma in Chilean society and its imaginary that is expressed in literature, theater, and the visual arts with acute persistence and with different aesthetics paradigms. Contemporary narrative also shows a need to reexamine this traumatic past and the different and disputed memories it has engendered through experimental approaches that depict family relations and subjectivity. The reexamination of recent history is most often textually located in the years of the Pinochet dictatorship and the ways persecution, imprisonment, and repression by the state shaped new subjectivities and understandings of the nation and the citizen. Women’s writing and feminism in the dictatorial period developed a narrative that linked gender to political and social oppression, anticipating the core themes in the collective opposition to the Pinochet regime. Feminists have been united by the common past struggle against the dictatorship and their shared memory. This memory serves as an identity marker that contrasts and highlights the progressive fragmentation of the women’s movement in the present. Furthermore, the historical narrative of the struggle against gender oppression and authoritarianism provides a gender identity that resists present-day politics and the neoliberal culture of Chilean society today. The scattering of women’s collective power has given way to a wide range of individual voices located in diverse cultural positions, among them literature, in which gender is shown to be a resistant position to the official consensus to forget the past. As the novels analyzed in this essay show, gender-based stands politicize the past and dispute memory from a personal and gendered experience of a traumatic past and its legacy. Many parallels may be found with a transnational context in which women’s cultural resistance to global processes of political and economic transformations posits intersectionality of gender, class, sexuality, and ethnicity as sites that shape identity, reconfiguring a new subjectivity in which place and location are defined by a challenge to hegemonic narratives. Women’s writing in this context is a contestatory practice that shows not only the shortcomings of globalization but also its oppressive streak and how to subvert it by creating new alternatives to thinking and imagining the world. This essay reveals those hidden or perhaps less noticeable places women occupy in their localities and transnational contexts. It analyzes how contemporary literature written by women writers in Chile shows local histories intertwined with transnational events that today are part of the fabric of contemporary citizenship and subjectivity in a global world.

Keywords

Traumatic Memory North Atlantic Treaty Organization Traumatic Past Woman Writer Gender Oppression 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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© Clara Román-Odio and Marta Sierra 2011

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