Chacabuco and the Crystal: Relating Narratives and/As Refracting the Past

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Vikki BELL, Goldsmiths, University of London, United Kingdom
This paper takes the gift of an interview that emerged unexpectedly on fieldwork in Chile with an ESRC(UK)-funded project. As part of the project, we visited the ex-detention centre Chacabuco in the Atacama desert, where hundreds of political prisoners were held in the 1970s during Pinochet’s dictatorship. The paper considers how we meet the past multiply in such research, as the story of ‘what happened’ emerges via several routes: experientially, visually, cinematically and biographically. Drawing on Benjamin’s comments on story-telling and Cavarero’s arguments concerning ‘relating narratives’, the paper considers how the story told by our interviewee, Osvaldo Valdés, a survivor of the camp, adopts a mode of a narrating the history he has lived that shares and supplements the ‘crystalline’ approach adopted not only in Gúzman’s majestic ‘Nostalgia de la Luz’ (2010) but also in the film ‘cited’ by Gúzman, ‘Yo He Sido, Yo Soy, Yo Seré’(1974), shot clandestinely in the camp at the time it was being used as a detention centre. Valdés shares the telling with a friend, another survivor, and they distribute not only the story but the sentiments between them, allowing a web of generosity and receptivity between us that like a game of cat’s cradle (Haraway, 2016:34) enables the remarkable story of torture, creativity and laughter to be gifted to us.