Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala by Victoria Sanford (auth.)

By Victoria Sanford (auth.)

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Extra info for Buried Secrets: Truth and Human Rights in Guatemala

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The collection of testimonies has forced me to challenge every aspect of my research from the complex and contradictory perspective of survivors. 24 I also believe that I must honor the words shared with me, lived experiences of violence as understood by survivors. The taking of testimony, the interview, provided a space for survivors (1) to tell of their experiences, (2) to teach a larger community of their history (and of this they were always conscious), (3) to create an open space and be accompanied as they came to terms with what had happened to them as individuals and communities, (4) to provide context to the physical exhumation, and (5) to be heard and have their words valued rather than negated.

The language used in testimonies is not just a collection of words randomly strung together, nor is it simply a story of the genocide. 12 The legacy of trauma is embedded in the language, just as it is embedded in other structures of the culture. ”13 In my fieldwork, I collected more than 400 lengthy testimonies from massacre survivors, former soldiers, civil patrollers, and insurgent combatants in rural areas. I also conducted interviews with rural and urban leaders of human rights organizations, high-ranking military officers, and government officials.

Before I could begin to explore the current transition from authoritarian rule, efforts for national reconstruction, and establishment of rule of law in Guatemala, I found that I had to first problematize the slippery concepts of terror and genocide. In the process, I discovered that truth and memory are as integral to analyses of terror and genocide as the latter are to transition from authoritarian rule and societal reconstruction. These considerations raised more questions than they answered.

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