Conversations about Silences

  • Susana Kaiser
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Oral History book series


El silencio es Salud (Silence is Health) read the inscription on the gigantic sign that was posted at the time of the military coup around the obelisk, a landmark monument in Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue at the center of downtown Buenos Aires. Although it was part of a campaign to reduce traffic noise, it is hard not to ascribe to this slogan—especially when looking at it more than two decades later— another obvious meaning, an advisory on the benefits of silence: “Don’t ask, don’t listen, don’t accuse.”


Military Personnel Military Coup Official Curriculum Military Child Civilian Rule 
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  1. 1.
    He observed this regarding cases as diverse as the Putumayo, Congo, and Argentina. Michael Taussig, “Culture of Terror—Space of Death: Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture,” in Violence in War and Peace, ed. Nancy Scheper-Hughes and Philippe Bourgois (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2004), 39–53, p. 40.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Horacio Verbitsky, Civiles y Militares: Memoria Secreta de la Transición (Buenos Aires: Editorial Contrapunto, 1987), 114.Google Scholar
  3. For information on this clandestine press experience, see Horacio Verbitsky, Rodolfo Walsh y la Prensa Clandestina (Buenos Aires: Ediciones La Urraca, 1985).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    See, among others, Fentress and Wickham, Social Memory, ix; James Pennebaker and Becky Banasik, “On the Creation and Maintenance of Collective Memories: History as Social Psychology,” in Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives, ed. James Pennebaker, Darío Páez, and Bernard Rimé (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, New Jersey, 1997), 3–19, p. 17; Popular Memory Group, “Popular Memory,” 210.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Juan Rial, “Makers and Guardians of Fear,” in Fear at the Edge: State Terror and Resistance in Latin America, ed. Juan Corradi, Patricia Weiss Fagen, and Manuel Antonio Garretón (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1992), 90–103, p. 101.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    Passerini, “Introduction,” 13–15; Luisa Passerini, “Work Ideology and Consensus under Italian Fascism,” in The Oral History Reader, ed. Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (New York: Routledge, 1998) 53–62, pp. 58–59.Google Scholar
  7. 10.
    Selma Leydesdorff, “A Shattered Silence,” in Memory and Totalitarianism, ed. Luisa Passerini (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 145–163, quotes in pp. 148, 159.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    See Inés Dussel, Silvia Finocchio, and Silvia Gojman, Haciendo memoria en el país del Nunca Más (Buenos Aires: Eudeba, 1997). The book, developed by educators, is a tool for teaching about the dictatorship and suggests activities for a critical reading of the “Nunca Más.” For instance, watching Kurasawa’s Rhapsody in August (about the American grandson visiting relatives in Japan and the family’s conversations remembering the atomic bomb) and draw comparisons with what happened in Argentina.Google Scholar
  9. 16.
    See studies about the Spanish Civil War and Chile in Darío Páez, Nekan Besabe, and José Luis Gonzalez, “Social Processes and Collective Memory: A Cross-Cultural Approach to Remembering Political Events,” in Collective Memory of Political Events: Social Psychological Perspectives, ed. James Pennebaker, Darío Páez, and Bernard Rimé (New Jersey: Lawrence Er+lbaum Associates, New Jersey, 1997), 147–173, p. 159.Google Scholar

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© Susana Kaiser 2005

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  • Susana Kaiser

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