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Memory’s Turn
Reckoning with Dictatorship in Brazil
Rebecca J. Atencio

Winner, Alfred B. Thomas Award, Southeastern Council of Latin American Studies

Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors

“An extremely well-written, engaging, and interesting contribution to the scholarship on postdictatorial memory construction in Latin America. Atencio allows readers to see the multiple and layered ways in which postconflict societies construct and contest the meanings of the past.”
—Michael J. Lazzara, author of Chile in Transition

After twenty-one years of military dictatorship, Brazil returned to democratic rule in 1985. Yet over the following two decades, the country largely ignored human rights crimes committed by state security agents, crimes that included the torture, murder, and disappearance of those who opposed the authoritarian regime.

In clear and engaging prose, Rebecca J. Atencio tells the story of the slow turn to memory in Brazil, a turn that has taken place in both politics and in cultural production. She shows how testimonial literature, telenovelas, literary novels, theatrical plays, and memorials have interacted with policies adopted by the Brazilian state, often in unexpected ways. Under the right circumstances, official and cultural forms of reckoning combine in Brazil to produce what Atencio calls cycles of cultural memory. Novel meanings of the past are forged, and new cultural works are inspired, thus creating the possibility for further turns in the cycle.

The first book to analyze Brazil’s reckoning with dictatorship through both institutional and cultural means, Memory’s Turn is a rich, informative exploration of the interplay between these different modes of memory reconstruction.


Rebecca J. AtencioRebecca J. Atencio is an assistant professor of Brazilian literary and cultural studies at Tulane University. Founder of the blog Transitional Justice in Brazil, she lives in New Orleans, Louisiana.




“Atencio's revelation of cultural and political synergies highlights the ambiguities inherent in recovering truths from the past, for memory and truth are not always the same thing.”

“A major book that takes the field of human rights in a new direction. Atencio enables us to see a powerful dialectic of culture and institutions and its relevance for understanding human rights.”
—Steve J. Stern, series editor



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Memory's Turn

April 2014
LC: 2013041210 F
144 pp.   6 x 9
9 b/w photos  

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Paper $26.95 a
ISBN 978-0-299-29724-4
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