This month has seen Dr Niamh Thornton, Reader in Latin American Studies, undertaking fieldwork in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a specialist in Mexican film, literature, and digital culture, this may not seem an obvious country to visit while on research leave. She is currently completing a book project on curatorship, commemoration, and memorialisation in Mexican film and TV and working on a co-edited volume on spectres of the past in audio-visual culture.
These projects are concerned with how past traumas are told through film, TV, and other forms of image making. Mexico has a number of violent events that it has examined and represented creatively, from the Revolution (1910-20) up to the current violence as a result of the so-called war on drugs. Argentina has also experienced considerable turmoil in the recent past, in particular the Dirty War (1976-83) when as many as 30,000 people were tortured and disappeared by the government. Subsequently, writers, theorists, creative artists, and filmmakers have explored ways of finding meaning and working through the trauma of this period.
Having read and watched much of what was produced by writers and filmmakers, Dr Thornton has taken a trip to see how this has manifested itself in the form of official government sponsored works, and in the ways civil society actors and individuals have created spaces and opportunities for creative work. She has had the opportunity to meet experts involved in the field and to visit the memory sites. The contexts are very different. What Argentina went through and what Mexico continues to go through have their own distinct histories and scales. However, this is an invaluable opportunity to explore those differences as well as discover commonalities. Writing about curatorship and commemoration in this context has proven deeply moving and very productive.