Final summary: Argentina and the year ahead

Well, I’m finally back on campus after 6 months in Argentina and several weeks of hurried unpacking, repacking, moving, and organizing all my research materials. Because I had a limited time abroad, I focused all my energy while there on finding sources for my research project about the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. I ended up with thousands of newspaper articles, hundreds of historical documents from police archives, sources from the Madres, politicians, activists and victims, and of course months’ worth of personal experience to contextualize my project.

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Reading dictators’ documents

In my last post, I talked about my frustration with not being able to find media sources from during Argentina’s last dictatorship that talked about the activities of human rights organizers such as the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. The press was ordered by the government not to report on protests and civil disobedience, so there is extremely unfair reporting on and representation of groups such as the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in these public sources.

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It’s hard to search for sources about a government without freedom of press…

Hello again from Buenos Aires, Argentina! I’ve been down here hiding in the hemeroteca, or newspaper archives, searching for primary sources that I can incorporate into qualitative analysis of the activism of the Madres de Plaza de Mayo. I decided to start by looking at La Prensa and La Nación, two of the most widely read and most respected news sources in Argentina. Both have been around for a long time and are known for being reliable sources— comparable to the New York Times or Washington Post. However, I was having a lot of trouble finding any articles or editorials that mentioned the Madres, even around the days when I know marches or incidents occurred from reading biographies about the Madres. I quickly realized that the issue here wasn’t my Spanish reading skills, but rather that the most powerful and widely read newspapers in Argentina during the time of the dictatorship were under the thumb of the army and would not publish news about any resistance.

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Update #1 from Argentina: Getting to know my research subject

It’s been more difficult than expected to get the ball rolling on my research here in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Of course, it’s to be expected that sometimes sources may not be available, or individuals or groups may not be willing to collaborate, or the language barrier may cause some difficulties. None of those issues surprised me; what really surprised me was how much being in Argentina changed my perspective of my research subject, and inspired me to dive deeper into their story.

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Abstract: Motherhood, Memory, and the Future of Law

My name is Emily Jackson and I am an International Relations major and rising senior currently spending a semester abroad in La Plata, Argentina. During Argentina’s military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983, the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo gained international attention by using truth, memory and their motherhood to resist. Their fight contributed to the exposure and ousting of the juntas, and was instrumental in the development of innovative means of transitional justice when faced with blocks to criminal trials even after the dictatorship fell. My research seeks to examine what made Argentina’s motherist activist movement so successful while lawyers, academics and others were persecuted or ignored, and how civil society interacted with national politics during and after the dictatorship to invent new means of justice. How can the power of memory and motherist activism, and the legal innovations they inspired, influence conceptions of human rights, international criminal procedure, and forms of transitional justice in a modern global context? By analyzing discourse and law using primary sources in Argentina, I seek to not just explain the Argentine experience, but to propose a mechanism for innovative justice modeled after Argentina derived from the universally relatable experiences of memory and motherhood.