The Archives of Dictatorship in Guatemala
This event includes a book signing
April 4, 2014
3:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes Assistant Professor of History at Harvard University KIRSTEN WELD for a discussion of her book 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 investigators stumbled on the archives of the country's National Police, which, at 75 million pages, proved to be the largest trove of secret state records ever found in Latin America.
The unearthing of the archives renewed fierce debates about history, memory, and justice. In Paper Cadavers, Weld explores Guatemala's struggles to manage this avalanche of evidence of past war crimes, providing a firsthand look at how postwar justice activists worked to reconfigure terror archives into implements of social change. Tracing the history of the police files as they were transformed from weapons of counterinsurgency into tools for post-conflict reckoning, Weld sheds light on the country's fraught transition from war to an uneasy peace, reflecting on how societies forget and remember political violence.
"Kirsten Weld should have a theorem named after her. Call it Weld's Paradox: the more a state engages in surgical, almost microscopic surveillance of its citizens—which, one would think, would limit the amount of actual violence that is needed to maintain control—the more likely it is to perpetuate indiscriminate, scattershot mass terror. By following the team of archivists working through the more than 75,000,000 documents found in Guatemala's recently discovered police archives, Weld, in her methodologically innovative and brilliantly conceived Paper Cadavers, provides an unparalleled look into the paperwork of state repression and the forensics of justice. In so doing, Weld provides crucial historiographical grounding to much of the airy theorizing concerning the relationship of knowledge to power, or, better, ink to blood." —Greg Grandin, author of The Blood of Guatemala: A History of Race and Nation and coeditor of The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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