Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Postdictatorship Latin America

By Whitfield, Joey | Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Postdictatorship Latin America


Whitfield, Joey, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies


SuSana dRaPeR, Afterlives of Confinement: Spatial Transitions in Postdictatorship Latin America. Pittsburgh, Pa: university of Pittsburgh Press. 2012. 238 pp. ISBN 978-0-8229-6225-0.

This study is a significant intervention into the field of postdictatorship memory studies in uruguay, argentina and Chile. draper's analysis draws on literary, historical and latin americanist cultural studies discourses in order to 'show the questionable and unstable nature of dominant assumptions about the process of transition to neoliberal freedom' through the exploration of 'alternative textual and visual imaginaries that reveal the spatiotemporal layers in and through which the dictatorships continued (and continue) to speak' (1). Through a narrow focus on the openings of former spaces of detention and the representation of such openings in prison memoirs, novels and films, the case is made that while spatial confinement may have changed, other forms of confinement continue under postdictatorship neoliberalism.

Theoretically, the argument relies on and develops Walter Benjamin's notion of the 'afterlife', a term which 'poses an instance of the dislocation of the teleological enframing of time' (5), and gilles deleuze's famous thesis on the changing nature of power in his 'Post- script on the society of control' (1992). The latter allows draper to argue that the 'spatial figure of enclosure is progressively replaced by an idea of control that works through the fantasy of an opening' (14), a paradigm revealed in the first chapter through explo- ration of the case of Punta Carretas prison in montevideo. designed as a penitentiary, then used to house political prisoners during the dictatorship, the building was reopened as a shopping mall in 1994. for draper, the mall comes to replace the prison as the site of utopian progress that was once occupied (literally) by the penitentiary, and now embodies an 'invisible system of inclusion and exclusion in the surveilled freedom of the free market' (58).

Chapter 2 concerns the 1971 mass escape of 111 prisoners from Punta Caretas, as recollected in the mln-T founder eleuterio fernández Huidobro's prison memoir la fuga de Punta Carretas (1990). This incident was not recalled in official histories of the 'Prison mall'. While tunnelling, the escapees came across another tunnel made by a group of anarchists who had escaped from the same prison in the 1930s. for draper this intersec- tion of subalternized histories is an example of a kind of narration she terms a 'minor epic', which counters the homogeneous discourse of 'State History' by becoming 'a reflection on actions that were made invisible (excluded) from their narration in a way that would demonstrate the multiple and irreduc- ible temporal modes that constitute history' (85-86). …

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