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Generating the Nation: Memory, Family, and Citizenship in Post-Dictatorship Chile


Members of the post-dictatorship generation in Chile have been the first to organize large-scale political protest since Augusto Pinochet’s military authoritarian regime ended in 1990. How do these individuals interpret this recent past, and how does it influence their conceptions of politics? How is their political action shaped by discourse and vice versa? Ethnographic data collected from interviews with Chilean university students is analyzed using a practice theory approach adapted from Sherry Ortner’s concept of the loosely structured actor. This analysis reveals the family to be a primary source of information and affect guiding young adults’ interpretation of meaning, with regard to both the past and the present. I argue that there exists currently a discourse of memory according to which Chilean citizens are shaped to remember the past in certain ways and not in others, and the political action of post-dictatorship actors is shaped by this discourse but also challenges it. Further ethnographic research must attend to the family as a site of political consciousness, and to the dialectical processes by which Chile’s historical narrative and its present political climate are mutually shaped.

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