The collaborative is sponsored by the Institute for Advanced Studes at the U of MN, as one of the projects around the University Symposium topic "Bodies and Knowing." The group will meet monthly to talk about readings leading up to a conference April 23-4 of 2010.
Here is the description of the project (click the title link to get to the web page where the reading is linked if you want to download it):
Exhuming Bodies, Producing Knowledge: Collective Memory, Justice and Restitution in Contemporary Spain
"This Colloquium Series and International Conference will explore the role that the recent exhumations of mass graves from the Spanish Civil War and subsequent dictatorship have had in the emergence of the movement for the “recovery of historical memory” in Spain. At the beginning of the 21st century, over 30,000 bodies were still interred in mass graves throughout the country. Subsequently, the emergence of civic associations, created by ordinary citizens to undertake exhumations of these graves, has had an enormous impact on Spanish society. In part, the media impact of the exhumations has led to pressure to pass the “Law of Historical Memory” by the Spanish Congress in October 2007, a significant, if insufficient, step towards confronting the legacy of the war and dictatorship in contemporary Spanish society. We will analyze the multiple and complex relations between bodies and knowledge that arise in such exhumations and discuss their political, social, cultural and legal significance, in Spain and in other post-authoritarian or post-conflict settings."
The article we read, but didn't really have time to discuss at length, was "Cries and Whispers: Exhuming and Narrating Defeat in Spain Today" by Francisco Ferrándiz. First, though, we talked to each other about the history and context of these events because many of those gathered are scholars of other national contexts. Some were people born elsewhere who have been living here for many years, but have personal connections to traumatic collective histories: in Chile, Germany, the former Yugoslavia.
Ferrándiz is also the author of "Digital Memory: The Visual Recording of Mass Grave Exhumations in Contemporary Spain" Francisco Ferrándiz, Alejandro Baer. He collaborates with a big archival and testimonial project hosted at the University of California in San Diego that hosts an archive of interviews through the "Spanish Civil War Project:"
"With the assistance of these human rights organizations, since the summer of 2007 several teams of graduate students have been recording audiovisual testimonies of militants, witnesses, and victims of the Spanish Civil War and the Francoist repression."The UCSD site exists in English and Spanish, so it's a good place to go for background. The Spanish transition to democracy after Franco's death was relatively peaceful, but one of the costs was a collective silence about what the legacy of the dictatorship. It's important to remember the difficult and painful process of creating the pacts, legal and social, that have made possible the emergence of a democratic civil society in the last thirty years, however critical of that process one might be.
After much negotiation, a law was approved a few years ago that makes possible a series of actions that allow engagement with the past: reparations or pensions for Republican soldiers, removal of at least some public monuments to fascism, and the exhumations of graves. The official site for the "Ley de la memoria histórica" explains the parts of the law. Non-governmental groups, such as the Asociación para la recuperación de la memoria histórica" have played a major role in bringing about these actions.
One of the questions that was asked at our meeting by a colleague from Spain: "what does it mean to the children of those who lived through the Civil War to confront this past and ask themselves if their parents were involved in the repression, if they were members of the Falange?" The exhumations are focusing attention now on the families of victims, but no family in Spain is untouched by these stories. Stories and speculation surround the fate of one of the most famous of these victims, whose body does not lie alone but with others murdered with him: this week begins the exhumation of the possible grave site of that of poet Federico García Lorca, and , in a story has even made The New Yorker. Author Jon Lee Anderson writes,
"In a recent story I wrote about the drama, the late poet’s niece, Laura Garcia Lorca (who is also the director of the Federico Garcia Lorca Foundation, which exercises control over the poet’s literary estate), told me that she and her relatives didn’t want Lorca’s body moved because they feared his exhumation would become an unseemly spectacle, “a circus.” Laura shuddered as she conjured up the image of Lorca’s bones being exhibited on YouTube."
It's not just the dead whose memories were stolen; it was also the living. You MUST read this post by entrenomadas about "los niños robados durante el franquismo" [children stolen during Franco's regime].