The 1978 Wold Cup in Argentina, from within Its Political Prisons and Clandestine Detentions Centres

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: 412
Oral Presentation
Mara POLGOVSKY , History of everyday life, Center of Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Ilan LEW , Sociology, École Hautes Études Sciences Sociales, Paris, France
Situated at the crossroads between the study of political repression and the media coverage of a sports event, this paper focuses on the reception of Argentina’s 1978 World Cup among those who were imprisoned in clandestine detention centres, in a political context that some have described as state terrorism.

Our examination of testimonial accounts from the oral archive Memoria Abierta  has shown that a number of survivors who were illegally imprisioned during the World Cup recall and express feelings about this event. While we expected concentrational spaces to be fully hermetic and insulated from outside information - as total institutions (Goffman, 1961) –, we observe, in contrast, the precarious and crumbing conditions through which the prisoners accessed and either celebrated or scorned football and nation. Indeed, rather than having been censured or concealed by the repressors, the World Cup, as a national festivity and media event, was to some extent integrated to repressive practices.  

We will discuss a number of situations evoked by the survivors in which the World Cup and its media boadcast intervene in the power logics of military personnel and their relationship to the inmates (better described as “disappeared” in the case of clandestine detention centres). We will also discuss the effects of the ‘informational porosity’ of the total institution in the inmates’ experience. Our paper will be centered on the subjectivity of social actors: their opinions, expectations, and causes of suffering. We will also discuss the limits of such an attempt to reconstruct these positionings, given the passage of time and the contovertrial nature of this international sports event.