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Representations of Transnational Violence: Children in Contemporary Latin American Film, Literature, and Drawings

  • Author(s): Robinson, Cheri
  • Advisor(s): Bergero, Adriana J.
  • et al.

In this study, I examine representational strategies revolving around extreme violence and child/adolescent protagonists in films, literature, children’s drawings, and legal/political discourses in contemporary Latin American culture from an interdisciplinary approach. I analyze the mobilizing potential and uses of representations of child protagonists affected by violence and the cultures of impunity that facilitate its circulation. Within the works selected, I explore ways in which children can become sites of memory and justice through acts of witnessing, empathy, and the universal claim of natural law, with a primary focus on transnational and multidirectional depictions of violence (i.e. a violence in circulation) in extra-juridical, politicized, or aberrant environments in Latin American works. The historical periods contextualizing this study include the Argentine military dictatorship (1976-1983) and its interconnectedness to the violence of WWII and the Holocaust in Reina Roff�’s “La noche en blanco” (Chapter 1), the impact of transnational trajectories of genocidal violence in Argentine South Patagonia in 1959-1960 as depicted by Luc�a Puenzo’s novel Wakolda (Chapter 2), Argentina’s transition to democracy (1990s) and the critical questions it raised regarding appropriated children and amnesty/justice in Dir. Gast�n Biraben’s Cautiva (Chapter 3), and the circulation of the traumatic in an orphanage in Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s filmic interpretation of violence during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) in El espinazo del diablo (Chapter 4, Part A). My research investigates inter-discursivities from a non-traditional approach to literature, film, and archival drawings, which include fictional (diegetic) drawings by Spanish children (in del Toro’s films) and non-fictional drawings made by Argentine children in exile in the Netherlands (Chapter 4, Part B).

I extensively focus on analyzing instances of children’s experiences with what I term “recycled violence.” This repetition of extreme violence is demonstrated in certain works in their trans-temporal and trans-spatial return to the pain and horrors of the Holocaust or to other unresolved periods of violence still resounding in the present moment. In the works analyzed, child protagonists are enormously affected by political decisions, wars, and the severe breakdown of law and order. Considering these extraordinary circumstances, it is important to justly address the traumas/wounds caused by the radical and systemic violence of those who should protect them – guardians who instead inflict violence. Injustices are approached in this study through an exploration of the concepts of spectatorship and witnessing, the imperative of the Good Samaritan or ethical responsibility, and possible connections of truth and testimony to justice. Finally, I postulate that child/adolescent protagonists may facilitate the establishment of a fortified empathy in an audience/readership numb from an incessant bombardment by violence, among other reasons for the use of children in works revisiting periods of extreme violence.

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