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A Lesson for Europe: Memory, Trauma and Reconciliation in Chile and Argentina

Final Report Summary - MEMOSUR (A Lesson for Europe: Memory, Trauma and Reconciliation in Chile and Argentina)

MEMOSUR. A Lesson for Europe: Memory, Trauma and Reconciliation in Chile and Argentina, was a IRSES (International Research Staff Exchange Schema) project within the Seventh Framework programme. During the three years of its existence (2014-2017), MEMOSUR developed a joint programme for exchange of researchers between four participant countries: Italy (University of Bologna), United Kingdom (University of Nottingham), Argentina (Universidad Nacional de Cordoba), and Chile (Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Santiago).
The main objective of the project was to compare post conflict societies with very different historical backgrounds, but with a common heritage of traumatic memories, in order to transfer and increase reciprocal knowledge through shared actions, workshops, publications and other training activities focused particularly on post-graduate students, who were all granted with a period of exchange of 6 months.
MEMOSUR addresses one of the most sensitive fields in the contemporary political and historical debate. Both Europe and Latin America have a history of contested and traumatic pasts, where memories compete with one another and are not easily shared and recognized within a common and accepted narrative. From these premises, there follows a central concern for the transmission and possible reconciliation of conflicting and divided memories, a task that involves both theoretical research and practical actions.
The project, based on an already advanced and vast collection of literature dealing with memory and post-memory issues, focused on the two case studies of Argentina and Chile, in order to increase the knowledge of differences and similarities between European and Latin American histories of violence and trauma, an issue not often addressed in current literature.
Within this general framework, a large and varied corpus of specific case studies was taken into account, according to the different disciplinary backgrounds and competences of the partners. In this way a wide range of perspectives on the study of post-traumatic and post-conflict memory were combined, interacting among one another so to allow a full and integrated understanding of the different phenomena involved, from political discourses to artistic practices, from media to literary texts, from sites of memory to juridical cases.
Particular attention was paid to different memorization and reconciliation practices, crucial aspects of post conflict societies that can take many different forms. Various forms of commemorations were analyzed, both official and unofficial, such as mourning rituals, as well as artistic practices aiming at remembering and transmitting traumatic pasts. Performances and theatre play an important role in this context, and these were the specific object of study of the Chilean partner of the Department of Theatre and Art at the Universidad Catolica de Santiago, whose PhD students of the Doctorate in Arts were involved through seminars, workshops and training activities.
Different forms of social and media discourse were also considered with special attention - especially by our Argentinean and British partners - to the Falkland-Malvinas war, a very interesting case where the British colonialist past and new forms of populist Argentinean politics conflicted with one another.
Finally, particular consideration was paid to the analysis of memory sites, memorials and museums, where the methodological tools of Semiotic analysis especially developed by the Italian group allowed to open a new and interesting field of analysis, opening up to new contacts with institutional organisations both in Chile and Argentina.

Within the project, a number of precise objectives to be accomplished were selected, in particular on the scientific, educational, and networking levels. Scientific objectives aimed at consolidating participants’ knowledge through comparative analyses of a specific set of concrete case studies, and transferring their results among involved partners, as well as to a larger audience. Educational and training objectives focused on the advancement of participants’ expertise in the field of memory, post-memory and trauma. Networking objectives were also designed to consolidate the existing international network and to extend it to other possible partners in both continents.
All our foreseen objectives were successfully reached, and the results of the project were highly satisfactory.
At the scientific level, more than 30 articles and book chapters were published in various volumes and scientific journals by the participants in the project. Moreover, before the end of the three year period, a collective volume was also published, with the title: MemoSur, MemoSouth. Memory, Commemoration and Trauma in Post-Dictatorship Argentina and Chile, edited by Adam Sharman, Milena Grass, Anna Maria Lorusso, Sandra Savoini, and published in London by the CCCPress.
This volume, to which almost all the participants to the project contributed, especially doctoral students, is a very good example of the integration of different multidisciplinary perspectives and methodologies - history, semiotics, performance studies, memory and trauma studies, literary studies, political and social discourse, etc. - applied to the analysis of different objects of analysis, as mentioned before.
The educational objectives were reached through intense activities in internal seminars, workshops, dedicated courses (over 15), and 4 international conferences and workshops open to wider participation during the three years extension of the project.

Our networking objective was particularly successfully carried out. During the project new contacts with both individual researchers and organisations were established in an array of various participant fields: human rights, forensic research, museal institutions. In particular, the curators and directors of the Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos in Santiago, of Parque de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos and of Sito de Memoria ESMA in Buenos Aires were involved in the project, and all participated in the final Conference held in Bologna in June 2017.
As a first result of such networking activity, a new European project H2020-MSCA-RISE-2017 , "SPEME - Questioning Traumatic Heritage: Spaces of memory in Europe, Argentina, Colombia"
was submitted in April 2017, and has already been approved by the European Commission. SPEME represents a natural outcome of MEMOSUR, since it originated from contacts established during this prior effort, but it is not a direct and linear follow-up of the latter, since it implies both new partners, and a partially new object of study, being focused on sites of memory and heritage. With the MEMOSUR partners we are considering other possible projects and forms of cooperation in order to continue our successful experiences with MEMOSUR.

Finally, at another and more experiential level, one unexpected result of MEMOSUR is worthy of being mentioned here, i.e. the establishment of some very close relationships and personal friendships between some of our participants, as well as the experience of a very strong feeling of belonging to a common scientific and human enterprise, shared especially by the younger components of the group.