Documentality and Display: Archiving and Curating the Violent Past in Contemporary South America

How should those effected by state violence and armed conflict record and collect their experiences to lend them effectively to future justice processes and future use?
Project status

How are questions of inclusiveness, categorisation and material delimitations dealt with by established and emerging archives and documentation centres? This project draws upon the notion of 'documentality' in the philosophy of Ferraris, by which the social order is understood to be founded upon the ways in which human lives are inscribed materially and imaginatively, to study key centres of post-conflict documentation in South America.

As societies develop, they need also to attend to how past experience is recorded and displayed. In part this relates to how criminal prosecutions take place, for archives and documentation centres become important for fact checking. They are also important sources of cultural understanding, providing materials for cultural awareness and modes of representation for future generations to understand the past. That is, how the traces and records of past violence are ordered, and how they are displayed, will involve decisions that construct meanings and structure debates. Documentation centres and archives are crucial sites of socio-cultural reproduction in this regard that operate as keepers of the traces of violence and as participants as curators, influencing our imagination and our understanding.

The project seeks to consider how documents of violence are constituted, collected and preserved in archives and documentation centres, the decision-making that takes place at those sites - and its problems - and how these centres are being utilised as ways of creating engagement with the violence of the past in ways that are culturally important. These involve legal processes, that recognise past crimes and establish the rule of law as well as socio-cultural processes that seek forms of sustainable peace through the understanding that make possible, that is, through understanding what present and future societies inherit from the experience of conflict.

Principal Investigator: Professor Vikki Bell, Goldsmiths, University of London 

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