Torture, Truth, Repression and Archaeology

  • Alejandro F. Haber
Part of the Contributions To Global Historical Archaeology book series (CGHA)


During the most recent military dictatorship in Argentina, torture committed in pozos (clandestine detention centers) was not only aimed at obtaining information but at getting prisoners’ self-narratives in accordance with the executioners’ rules. As a consequence, torture involved the establishment of a certain regime of truth. Although this regime was necessarily authoritarian, it did not include passive descriptions (DuBois 1990). DuBois defined torture as the ultimate domination of bodies and – above anything else – ideas. From this point of view, torture did not limit itself to the extermination of enemies. On the contrary, it tried to impose a particular interpretation of history; that is to say, a particular “truth” in the struggle for understanding. Taking into account the undeniable disparity between the number of combatants and the number of people imprisoned and tortured during the military government, DuBois’ thesis brought to the foreground the enormous social cost of establishing “truth”.

If archaeology has the potential to reveal the traces of state terrorism, and dictatorship depends on torture as the guardian of a certain regime of truth, then it is possible to ask: What is the relationship that archaeology establishes between truth and self-narrative?


Indigenous People Collective Memory Historical Narrative Objectual Domain Archaeological Remains 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The members of the research group and the survivors of El Pozo clandestine detention center allowed me to share their experiences in the project. Several colleagues, such as Patricia Bernardi, Silvia Bianchi, Luis Fondebrider, Cristóbal Gnecco, Jacko Jackson, Darío Olmo, Bob Paynter, Claire Smith, Myriam Tarragó and Martin Wobst, contributed with ideas, suggestions and experiences that – for better or for worse – were written here. I would like to thank Pedro Funari and Andrés Zarankin for the opportunity to publish this article, and Melisa Salerno for the translation.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.(Universidad Nacional de Catamarca & Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas) National University of Catamarca & National Council for Scientific and Technical ResearchCatamarcaArgentina

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