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Secrecy and Desires for Political Intimacy in Argentina, 1983 – 1999

Filer, TR; (2015) Secrecy and Desires for Political Intimacy in Argentina, 1983 – 1999. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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This thesis examines the ways in which a variety of nonfictional texts express desires for ‘political intimacy’ in early post-authoritarian Argentina. By political intimacy is meant a sensed commonality of ‘political emotions’ (Nussbaum; 2013) through which citizens are drawn to feel close to one another and sometimes also to the state. These emotional bonds were both framed officially as part of democratic experience and keenly desired by varied citizens. Such longings come to light in this study through close readings, historically contextualized and theoretically informed, of nonfiction writing concerned with political secrecy and related forms of censorship and not knowing. I thus integrate into the analysis historical understandings of the relationship between emotional proximity and shared knowledge in democracy, after the aggressively imposed state censorship of the Proceso era (1976-1983). The study illustrates changes and continuities in articulated longings for political intimacy between the often-contrasting administrations of the Radical leader Raúl Alfonsín (1983-1989) and his Justicialist successor Carlos Menem (1989-1999). It reveals that the social imaginary in these transitional years was consistently saturated with varied expressions of political emotion, a finding that provides nuance to the increasingly prevalent view of an arc from political elation in 1983 to widespread depoliticization by the mid-1990s. The texts under review here are drawn from four discursive spaces that together reveal the perspectives of intellectuals, journalists, political actors and ‘everyday’ citizens. Chapter 1 examines debates and practices in intellectual and journalistic spaces from 1983 to 1989 related to secrecy, censorship and knowledge circulation in the new democracy. Chapter 2 studies essays and articles produced during these same years by intellectuals exiled during the Proceso (1976-1983) or earlier who sought now to produce political intimacy with fellow Argentine citizens through acts of discursive revelation. In Chapter 3, the chronological focus shifts to Argentina under the Menem administration. I consider competing narratives about the president in public circulation; in official discourse, he was presented as open, knowable and emotionally bonded with citizens, but widely read alternative accounts both portrayed political secrecy and presidential scandals as rife and suggested that political intimacy was thus impeded. Chapter 4 turns to letters that citizens sent to Menem in apparent attempts to produce a relationship of mutual emotional attachment and knowledge exchange between state and citizen: a relationship that these letter writers commonly felt, if unbeknown to one another, to be wholly lacking or in need of further development. My work considers the relationship between nonfiction writing and desires for political intimacy in early post-authoritarian Argentina, and makes a broader call for greater interrogation and integration into criticism of recent Argentine nonfictional texts beyond testimonio. I contribute to nascent scholarship that attends to the Argentine transition-era written archive - rather than seeking to construct the retrospective oral one - in an effort to bridge the gap between texts and socio-political process and thus to offer new ways of interpreting the social imaginary of these early post-authoritarian years.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Secrecy and Desires for Political Intimacy in Argentina, 1983 – 1999
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1471510
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