The Chilean memory debate: mapping the language of polarisation

2018-08-17T11:15:46Z (GMT) by Ximena Tocornal Montt
This research consists of an analysis based on a Discursive Psychology perspective of how Chileans talk about the recent past. The data are focus group discussions produced in 2005 and 2006. The 11 September 1973, the Chilean military overthrew the socialist government of. Salvador Allende, who had been elected president in 1970. The military installed first a junta and then a military government headed by General Augusto Pinochet. The military regime, which became known for tactics of political repression including assassination, torture and exile, remained in power until 1990, when Pinochet, having lost popular support (according to the results of a national plebiscite), returned the country to civilian rule. Since then, Chile has had four democratically elected presidents, none of whom has been able to avoid dealing with "the legacy of the past". Among Chileans, there is no consensus regarding how to name, describe or explain the events leading up to and during the military regime. On the contrary, since the day of the coup, opposing versions of events have been sustained by those who supported the Allende government and those who supported the coup. The controversies about 11 September 1973 itself, as well as the antecedents and the consequences of what happened on that day, are still valid concerns for Chileans. These concerns have been studied under the moniker of "collective or social memory", as attempts to explain the difficulties Chileans have encountered in "coming to terms with the legacy of the past". The most frequent explanations for the lack of consensus about the "truth" of what happened in Chile have been based on an appeal to memory processes, shaping a debate about the past as well as about legitimate sources of knowledge of the past. My research explores in detail the discursive and rhetorical devices (handled by the participants of several focus groups) by which the debate is explainable as the result of a systematic and methodical use of the "language of polarisation".