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Paper Cadavers: The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala
In Paper Cadavers, an inside account of the astonishing discovery and rescue of Guatemala's secret police archives, Kirsten Weld probes the politics of memory, the wages of the Cold War, and the stakes of historical knowledge production. After Guatemala's bloody thirty-six years of civil war (1960–1996), silence and impunity reigned. That is, until 2005, when human rights ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published March 21st 2014 by Duke University Press Books
(first published January 1st 2014)
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I read this at the end of my time doing research in the archives of the Chilean human rights defense (Vicaría) and thus the discussion of archival science and politics rang relevant. I mostly found myself comparing the Chilean and Guatemalan archival situations, and the corresponding political parallels. And that is the key of what made Paper Cadavers interesting even for someone not working in the archives: that it's really about the arc of Guatemalan history as mapped in a paper trail and the ...more
The C.I.A. taught the Guatemalan police and military the power of well-documented surveillance in the early days of the civil war. In turn, those forces unleashed a torrent of genocide, murder, and torture that even made the U.S. intermittently recoil in horror and reassess its friendships with the military-led governments. Meticulous records of their work were maintained for decades. Finally, in a twist of fate and justice that seems like something out of a movie, those same surveillance tactic ...more
Mar 04, 2016 Mary Bronson rated it really liked it
I thought this book was interesting. I had to read this for my Public History class, but I actually thought it was a well written book. I had never knew about the Civil War in Guatemala until now. This book had so much information about what happened and after the secret police's archives were re discovered and how archives can bring on discussions on history, memory and the justice system.
Really great introduction into memory, how memory is owned / controlled in deliberate and consequential ways, and how archives contribute to collective histories and memories. I was eager to read it because of my interest in contemporary Guatemala, but this book stretched my brain and gave me a lot to reflect on beyond that specific case.
Kirsten Weld is Assistant Professor of History at Harvard University, specializing in 20th-century Mexico, Central America, and the Southern Cone. Hailing from Canada, she holds a PhD from Yale University. Her research interests include revolutionary and counterrevolutionary movements, the Cold War, dictatorships and transitional justice, memory, indigenous history, and the politics of history, hi ...more
“Humberto, a case investigator, envisioned his participation as part of a broader compromiso—a fundamental moral position, a political consciousness linked directly to his decades of involvement in the FAR and the EGP:”
“I decided that it was fine…because I felt something there, like a hope, that this could contribute to Guatemala. I feel like I am working toward the same goals, but now with different conditions.”20”More quotes…