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Lugar de la Memoria : the Peruvian debate on memory, violence and representation


This study analyzes the public debate surrounding the creation of the Peruvian Lugar de la Memoria (Place of Memory) through notions of memory, violence and representation. I argue that the Peruvian Place of Memory has successfully been framed, through a carefully constructed discourse, as a "memory" project that claims to present, not an "archeological", imposed, static final version of the past, but a plural, dynamic, inclusive account of a historical period of violence. This discursive achievement has allowed the project to advance in two fundamental ways. First, the Place of Memory has elicited political alliances that would have been impossible without a declared willingness to represent a plural vision of the past. Second, resonating with proposals that claim to represent national "memory", the Place of Memory aims to reconstruct the past in order to legitimize a present national project. Working toward that connection between past and present, the project has managed to discursively connect manifestations of extreme violence to less visible, underlying and persistent forms of structural violence. Despite these valuable achievements, the Peruvian Place of Memory has one central limitation that results from not recognizing that the positions of "who speaks" and "who is spoken of" overlap with positions in the larger distribution of power. Overlooking the project's, and its representatives', position within power relations may revert the advances made through the discourse, finally turning the Place of Memory into a version of the past, imposed by dominant classes, that perpetuates the structure of power that the project repudiates

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