September 25, 2019 –
Art and Social Memory in Peru 1980-2000
Dr. Margarita Saona
Head of Hispanic and Italian Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago
Room: SULB 150D
Margarita Saona studied linguistics and literature at Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru. She received a Ph.D. in Latin American literature from Columbia University in New York. She lives in Chicago, where she is head of the department of Hispanic and Italian Studies at the University of Illinois. She is interested in issues of memory, cognition, empathy, and representation in literature and the arts. She has published numerous articles, two books on literary and cultural criticism, Novelas familiares: Figuraciones de la nación en la novela latinoamericana contemporánea (Rosario, 2004) and Memory Matters in Transitional Perú (Londres, 2014), two books of short fiction, Comehoras (Lima, 2008) and Objeto perdido (Lima, 2012), and a book of poems, Corazón de hojalata/Tin Heart (Chicago, 2017).
The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) investigated the human rights abuses that took place in Peru during the war between the Shining Path, other guerrilla movements, and the Peruvian Armed Forces. They concluded that the mass killings were in part the result of the indifference of the elites towards large sectors of the population. The CVR used many of tools to raise consciousness about past atrocities in Peru and the discriminatory practices that allow them. All those things appeal to rational and legal ways of fostering peace. However, the initiatives taken by the CVR also pointed to the need to change the way people felt. Empathy seems to play an important role in incorporating the experiences of others. In her presentation Saona analyzes works of art and other initiatives by activists in Peru who have attempted to foster empathy through their work in an effort to raise collective consciousness about the atrocities of the recent past. Her analysis demonstrates that there are specific mechanisms activated by works of art that trigger “memory like” effects in the viewers, promoting empathy in ways that can set the foundations for a common understanding of the traumatic past.