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Restitution of indigenous ancestors, uncomfortable heritage, and ways of seeing violence in Argentina


Carolina Crespo

About Carolina

Carolina Crespo is a CONICET-INAPL-UBA researcher and professor at the University of Buenos Aires. She researches processes of heritagization, memories and silences with Mapuche communities in contexts of territorial claims in Patagonia, Argentina from an ethnographic perspective. She is interested in the study of heritage policies of knowledge and materialities of daily and sacred indigenous life, restitution of ancestors, subordinate memories, archives, museum and tourist exhibitions and policies of dispossession “preservation-development” in the context of Mapuche territorial demands.

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The indigenous demands made in Argentina in recent decades for the restitution of their ancestry to museums and other institutions have given rise to the making of several films and photographic exhibitions. The aim of this paper is to reflect on these images as “machinery for the production of sensibilities”, examining the politics of light in the representation and administration of violence and the affects and effects they have on the reconstruction of a past that demands justice on the part of the original peoples. I examine the images dedicated to making public the violence and racism involved in these heritagization processes and the implications, discomforts and positionings that these disturbing memories generate among the Mapuche in Patagonia, in order to discuss the category of “uncomfortable”, “dissonant” or “difficult heritage”, as heritage linked to exercises of human rights violations has been defined.

Resumen: Restituciones de ancestros indígenas, patrimonio incómodo y maneras de ver la violencia en Argentina

Las demandas indígenas desplegadas en Argentina en las últimas décadas por la restitución de sus ancestralidades a museos y a otras instituciones, dieron lugar a la filmación de varias películas y a exposiciones fotográficas. El objetivo de este trabajo es reflexionar sobre estas imágenes como “maquinarias de producción de lo sensible”, examinando la política de la luz en la representación y administración de la violencia y los afectos y efectos que tienen en la reconstrucción de un pasado que demanda justicia por parte de los pueblos originarios. Examino las imágenes dedicadas a hacer pública la violencia y el racismo involucrados en estos procesos de patrimonialización y las implicancias, incomodidades y posicionamientos que generan estos recuerdos perturbadores entre los mapuche en Patagonia, con el objeto de discutir la categoría de “patrimonio incómodo”, “disonante” o dificultoso”, tal como se definió al patrimonio ligado a ejercicios de violación de derechos humanos.

How to Cite: Crespo, C. (2022). Restitution of indigenous ancestors, uncomfortable heritage, and ways of seeing violence in Argentina. European Review of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, (113), 143–161. DOI:
Published on 30 Jun 2022.
Peer Reviewed


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