Musical and Other Cultural Responses to Political Violence in Latin America

Musical and Other Cultural Responses to Political Violence in Latin America

One-day Conference at the University of Manchester

6 December 2013

Supported by the Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama, the Centre for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) and the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in the Arts and Languages (CIDRAL).

Keynote speaker: Professor Michael Lazzara (University of California, Davis), author of Chile in Transition: The Poetics and Politics of Memory (2006).

Registration for the conference Musical and Other Cultural Responses to Political Violence in Latin America on 6 December at the University of Manchester is now open. Please visit

The full programme and paper abstracts are available on

Music has long been intertwined with violence. In Latin America, songs linked to the Shining Path guerrilla insurrection in Peru, chants sung during Venezuelan rallies by both supporters and opponents of chavismo, the emergence of the genre narcocorridos in Mexico, and pieces played by political prisoners and agents in detention and torture centres in Pinochet’s Chile offer examples of the many ways music can function in the context of violence: as a form of indoctrination and tool to abuse human rights, as a means to encourage and propagate political conflicts, aggression and social disruption, or as a survival tactic to resist violence and overcome traumatic situations, among other roles. Literature, theatre, cinema and other cultural expressions might assume similar functions. As John Blacking observes in How Musical is Man? (1973), “It sometimes happens that remarkable cultural developments can take place in societies in which man’s humanity is progressively abused, restricted, and disregarded. This is because cultural development can reach a stage where it is almost mechanically self-generative.”

This interdisciplinary conference will explore functions played by music and other cultural expressions in contexts of political violence in Latin America. The event is part of the Levehulme project ‘Sounds of Memory: Music and Political Captivity in Pinochet’s Chile’ at the University of Manchester. The conference will mark a number of landmarks relating to state violence taking place in 2013, including the fortieth anniversary of the onset of the Chilean and Uruguayan dictatorships, the fifteenth anniversary of Pinochet’s detention in London, the genocide sentence against former Guatemalan dictator Efraín Ríos Montt and the death of the Argentinean ‘Dirty War’ criminal Jorge Rafael Videla. Papers relating to these anniversaries or events, and prompting reflection on processes of memorialisation and reconciliation as well as the continuing legacies of past regimes and those who opposed them, will be especially welcome. Themes to be addressed in the conference include, but are not limited to:

– human rights violations
– migration and exile
– testimony
– censorship
– memory and post-memory
– nostalgia
– commemoration
– political activism
– reconciliation and healing
– research ethics and methodologies

We welcome proposals from any area of the humanities and social sciences. The conference’s working language will be English. Papers should last no longer than 20 minutes, including audio and visual illustrations. Abstracts of 250–300 words should be sent to the conference organiser, Katia Chornik ( by 15 August 2013. Speakers will be notified of their acceptance or otherwise by 1st September.

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