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Gendering the state of exception : the politics of gender and the production of language in Latin American carceral narratives


This dissertation investigates representations of gendered violence in prison narratives produced during three moments of Latin American state violence: the Argentine dictatorship (1976-83), the Chilean military regime (1973- 90) and the 1968 Mexico City massacre. This project analyzes the normalization of state violence in democratic and dictatorial governments as part of a hemispheric plan to eradicate political activism during the Cold War. Neoliberal states in Mexico and the Southern Cone violently repressed and incarcerated politically-active women who challenged the rise of free market economics. These states systematically perpetuated normative ideals of gender in prisons in order to sustain neoliberal economic and political agendas, as men and women were seen to be transgressing gender norms. While the state violently repressed male and female political prisoners, this dissertation explores how processes of dehumanization in the prison were gendered in a way that reflects these nations' normative, patriarchal, and hegemonic social practices. This project examines the gendered nature of this structured repression and extermination of political dissension in a range of cultural texts: personal testimonies, human rights reports, and testimonial literature. It offers new insight into the gendered processes involved in the organized repression and dehumanization of dissidents and these states' subsequent cataloguing of survivor testimonies. The dissertation examines previous scholarship's assessment of political prisoners' testimonies, concluding that existing analytical frameworks - universal human rights, Western feminism, or biopolitics -- have adopted gender-neutral or gender-normative approaches. This dissertation considers how state power and dominant theoretical models have worked in the construction of gender normative historical memories, divesting survivors of their political subjectivity and erasing the history of political genocide. Gendering the State of Exception calls for a new framework of understanding these testimonies, one that recognizes the transnational nature of these histories of survival and of resistance to a heteropatriacharchal, genocidal past that bears greatly upon the present. A Third World feminist lens facilitates a new critical understanding of cultural texts produced by Latin American political prisoners as it contests the dominant paradigm that depoliticizes women's narratives and relegates them to a gender-normative framework

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