Abstract: Healing and Memory

The themes I will examine in my research project — Healing and Memory: Place Identity in Post-Dictatorship Argentina and El Camino de Santiago — are complex and at times nebulous. In this introduction, however, I will briefly cover the premise of my project and the methods I will use.

The idea for this project was borne out of a confluence of inspirations, including my fascination with el Camino, a growing curiosity about the history of the last military dictatorship in Argentina, and a Hispanic Studies unit on spatial controls within the barrio. I began to consider the importance of place not only to myself, but also to individuals and communities in other parts of the world. Above all, I was captivated by the role of place in healing and memory. This relationship, I believe, is multifaceted and operates on various levels. For instance, place shapes memory but is shaped by memory in turn; this occurs on personal, community, and national levels, among others.

My goal became to untangle this complicated relationship. I want to understand the symbolic role of place and space in healing and memory processes. How do individuals and societies leverage space to preserve or honor memory? How does physical space affect memories of the past? How does the symbolic significance of place aid in personal or collective healing?

Since I expected to find a range of answers to these questions, I chose to design two separate but interrelated case studies. First, I will examine the way Argentine society has incorporated or reacted to the political violence of the last military dictatorship, continuing into the present. In this case, I expect to focus on the use of space to maintain a collective memory under the conviction that these crimes must nunca más, never again, reoccur. Second, I will research the significance of place for pilgrims along el Camino in Spain. I expect this relationship to be more personal, with the journey through space providing a physical framework for a metaphorical journey.

To complete this project, I will be gathering information in a variety of ways. Observations, interviews, and analysis of creative content will act as my sources. More important to me is the medium I have chosen to convey my findings. I will be filming a documentary throughout the study. Although I expect this medium to be challenging, I am convinced that an audiovisual representation is necessary for this project. After all, space is immersive, three-dimensional, and dynamic. I need a way to convey this feeling as vividly as possible. Film, I hope, will allow others to engage with space and place, just as the communities I will be studying do.