Introduction: New Direction in Twentieth-Century Argentine Political History

Jorge Nállim, David M.K Sheinin, Jessica Stites Mor


In Argentina, the March 1976 coup d’état is a conceptual fulcrum. Historians
have neatly divided Argentina’s political, social, and cultural pasts as post- and
pre-coup. There is a more compelling derivative, though, of that linear break. What
the proceso means—how it is understood together with its consequences—keeps
shifting, like the disturbing physical breaks in the urban geography of a futuristic
Buenos Aires portrayed in novelist Ricardo Piglia’s La ciudad ausente. In part,
changing understandings of what the proceso means to past and present complements
Argentina’s unusual relationship with its dictatorial past. With the fall of
authoritarian rule in 1983, Argentina was the first country in the region to form
a truth commission to search for answers into the how and why of murderous
dictatorship. It was also the first to bring to trial, convict and imprison military
leaders for crimes committed as heads of state—this while dictatorships still
functioned in 1980s Paraguay and Chile just next door.

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