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The body as a site of resistance and enactment of collective memories and trauma : an exploratory study in Chile Soto, Adriana Espinoza


The long-term psychosocial traumatic effects of 17 years of military dictatorship on Chilean society represents an ongoing challenge regarding the reconstruction of democracy, but also the emotional healing of people affected by these psychosocial traumas. However, the embodied collective responses by people affected by political repression and the prevailing impunity represent a new and unexplored field. Using A Liberation Action Research Method and An Embodied Participatory Narrative Method this exploratory study investigates the use of the body as a site of resistance and collective memories by HIJOS, a group of adult children whose parents were executed or detained and "disappeared" by agents of the military dictatorship in Chile. It also focuses on the meaning they make of these practices of resistance and memory through the implementation of a series of creative workshops. Finally, the study explores the therapeutic value of these workshops that involve the use of artistic expressions such as narrative, theater of the oppressed techniques, and collage making. The study identified the symbolic effects of State repression and violence on the participants and their families, which suggests that practices of memory and resistance developed as a social response to confront the destruction of the individual and the social body. Furthermore, the study identifies that the disappearance, killing, and political invisibility experienced by the parents has been internalized by the participants as a form of social invisibility. Consequently, invisibility appears as a direct outcome of these disappearances and killings, the prevailing impunity regarding these issues, the lack of political will of the current government in addressing human rights issues and justice, and the promoting of the social validation of those directly affected. This study begins to address the need to explore the embodied individual and collective meaning of social responses to psychosocial trauma, and the role of impunity in the transmission and retraumatization processes. It also provides relevant information for the development of therapeutic, pedagogical, and psychoeducational material and interventions. Finally, it challenges traditional notions of trauma while at the same time emphazising the need to contextualize trauma as part of social and historical processes.

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