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Afterlives of Confinement

Spatial Transitions in Post-Dictatorship Latin America

Susana Draper

Publication Year: 2012

During the age of dictatorships, Latin American prisons became a symbol for the vanquishing of political opponents, many of whom were never seen again. In the post-dictatorship era of the 1990s, a number of these prisons were repurposed into shopping malls, museums, and memorials. Susana Draper uses the phenomenon of the “opening” of prisons and detention centers to begin a dialog on conceptualizations of democracy and freedom in post-dictatorship Latin America. Focusing on the Southern Cone nations of Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Draper examines key works in architecture, film, and literature to peel away the veiled continuity of dictatorial power structures in ensuing consumer cultures. The afterlife of prisons became an important tool in the “forgetting” of past politics, while also serving as a reminder to citizens of the liberties they now enjoyed. In Draper’s analysis, these symbols led the populace to believe they had attained freedom, although they had only witnessed the veneer of democracy—in the ability to vote and consume. In selected literary works by Roberto Bolaño, Eleuterio Fernández Huidoboro, and Diamela Eltit and films by Alejandro Agresti and Marco Bechis, Draper finds further evidence of the emptiness and melancholy of underachieved goals in the afterlife of dictatorships. The social changes that did not occur, the inability to effectively mourn the losses of a now-hidden past, the homogenizing effects of market economies, and a yearning for the promises of true freedom are thematic currents underlying much of these texts. Draper’s study of the manipulation of culture and consumerism under the guise of democracy will have powerful implications not only for Latin Americanists but also for those studying neoliberal transformations globally.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas

Front Cover

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pp. ix-x

This book would not have been possible without the support of many friends who gave me courage and love at moments of change and transitions. I am forever grateful to all of them. Most of the text was written under the tenure of a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies...

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pp. 1-20

When thinking about transitions from dictatorship to neoliberal democracy in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, how do we critically analyze the transformations of time and place in cities, where the end of the dictatorships’ carceral imaginaries and the beginning of a postdictatorial...

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1. Prison-Malls: Architectures of Utopic Regeneration

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pp. 21-55

When writing a spatial history of transitions to postdictatorship societies in Latin America, the word “opening” seems to offer a good starting point, as it traverses different discourses, habits, and languages, crystallizing the mood of the times. The notion of opening acts as a foundational matrix that implicitly highlights how the previous...

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2. Literary Afterlives of the Punta Carretas Prison: Tunneling Histories of Freedom

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pp. 56-98

How do the textual works that thematize the past of Punta Carretas Prison contribute to an understanding of the afterlife of confinement? Moreover, how do they differ from the architectural and critical work on the mall that was analyzed in the previous chapter...

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3. The Workforce and the Open Prison: Awakening from the Dream of the Chilean Miracle in Diamela Eltit's Mano de obra

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pp. 99-124

In these remarks from Diamela Eltit’s Emergencias, language and place are central to Eltit’s reflection on the temporal placement of the coup and its aftermath, which are figured by two crucial spaces: the prison and the mall. In the first paragraph of the quote, historicity...

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4. Freedom, Democracy, and the Literary Uncanny in Roberto Bolano's Nocturno de Chile

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pp. 125-151

Roberto Bolaño made these remarks after one of his first trips back to Chile after the end of the dictatorship, a trip that he described in interviews and articles as having caused him a sense of strangeness linked to the uncanny. In fact, one of the articles is given the ironic...

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5. Memorialistic Architectonics and Memory Marketing

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pp. 152-175

A decade after the malling boom, memory itself became the object of a similar process, a kind of “memory boom.” Besides the creation of different Commissions of Memory, the promotion of memory as part of the marketing of the state-market can be seen in the project for the creation of a “MERCOSUR-Memory,” in which the regional market,...

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6. It Goes without Seeing: Framing tje Future Past of Violence in Postdictatorship Film

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pp. 176-200

In previous chapters I analyzed how retaining the prison structure as the base and cultural heritage of the new mall created an optical problem in various different critical and literary discourses. Texts by Diamela Eltit, Fernández Huidobro, and Roberto Bolaño set up the relation...


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pp. 201-228


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pp. 229-236


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pp. 237-238

Back Cover

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pp. 239-239

E-ISBN-13: 9780822978060
E-ISBN-10: 0822978067
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822962250
Print-ISBN-10: 082296225X

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 4 b&w photots
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas
Series Editor Byline: John Beverley and Sarah Castro-Klaren, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 830023634
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Afterlives of Confinement

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Subject Headings

  • Southern Cone of South America -- Intellectual life.
  • Southern Cone of South America -- Social conditions.
  • Prisons -- Remodeling for other use -- Southern Cone of South America.
  • Dictatorship -- Social aspects -- Southern Cone of South America.
  • Democracy -- Social aspects -- Southern Cone of South America.
  • Consumption (Economics) -- Social aspects -- Southern Cone of South America.
  • Architecture and society -- Southern Cone of South America.
  • Motion pictures -- Social aspects -- Southern Cone of South America.
  • Prisons in literature.
  • Spanish American literature -- Southern Cone of South America -- History and criticism.
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