In brief: Accounting for Violence

Accounting for Violence: Marketing Memory in Latin America
Edited by Ksenija Bilbija and Leigh A. Payne
2011, Duke University Press
405 pages

MEMORY has become big business in Latin America, and its principal focus is terror and pain. Bookstores, cinemas, theatre, the music industry and television do a roaring trade in testimonial and fictional accounts of the authoritarian past; tourist itineraries take photo-snapping visitors to the sites of collective trauma and memorial museums; and “memory studies” has emerged as a distinct, and rapidly growing, branch of esoteric academia. At the heart of this thriving “memory market” is a dilemma: wear memory on your sleeve and explore its every detail, and risk cheapening and trivialising it; or suppress it out of respect for those who suffered, and run the risk that their sacrifice and past atrocities will be forgotten. Ksenija Bilbija and Leigh Payne steer readers skilfully through this dilemma in a series of studies of the political economy of memory in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay that emerged from authoritarian rule in the 1980s and 1990s. – GJ