Archival Science

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 369–397 | Cite as

Treading the ground of contested memory: archivists and the human rights movement in Chile

  • Amanda Strauss
Original Paper


This article proposes a new definition of social justice that is based in liberation theology. It questions the relationship between archival practice and social justice and asks how (and whether) social justice can (or should be) a transformative force in the archival profession. These theoretical questions are examined through a case study of human rights archives. The author travelled to Chile in December 2011 to interview archivists and human rights activists and visit human rights archives, museums, and memorials. The article identifies three archival processes by which archivists in Chile engage in social justice activism: the act of documenting human rights violations that dictator Augusto Pinochet perpetrated during his rule from 1973 to 1990; by continually acquiring new documents that bear witness to these violations; and by providing, indeed encouraging and promoting, access to these materials. The article argues that the way that human rights archivists carry out these archival processes allows the community to participate in building both the archives and the memory of the dictatorship. It concludes by stating that this connection between the archives and the community is one of the primary ways in which social justice can be integrated into the archival profession.


Human rights Social justice Liberation theology Memory Chile 



The author would like to gratefully acknowledge the Office of Sponsored Programs at Simmons College, provider of the Student Research Fund grant, which made this research possible. The intellectual guidance of Dr. Terry Cook and Dr. Joel Blanco-Rivera has been invaluable to this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced StudyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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