Poet Alicia Partnoy Brought Struggle of Disappeared to Davidson
May 3, 2001
Argentine poet and activist Alicia Partnoy shared her experiences as a "disappeared" political prisoner in Argentina with members of the Davidson College community on Sunday, April 29, in Chambers Gallery. Her talk, entitled "The Disappeared: Writing Strategies to Re-establish their Presence," concerned her research into testimonial literature about the disappeared, and included readings of poems and short stories by mothers of the victims.
Partnoy began her presentation with a clip from the academy award-nominated documentary "Mothers of Plaza de Mayo," about the movement to stop the politically driven crimes against humanity in Argentina during the country's "Dirty War" of the 1970s. She pointed out that she was speaking on the eve of the twenty-second anniversary of the day thousands of mothers marched on Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires, demanding justice for their kidnapped childrenča day now known in Argentina as National Day for Civilian Courage.
Her talk analyzed the strategies of four collections of narratives by mothers seeking to find answers about the plight of those who were arrested and made to "disappear" by Argentine authorities. The works protest against the military government's denials that there had been any wrongdoing and seek to establish a lasting memorial to the victims.
Partnoy said that her research as a scholar has been driven by a need to tell their stories, and that she earned a Ph.D. to be able to speak about their plight with some authority.
"My job as a professor gives me another excuse for telling these stories," she said. "We have to be a tunnel to change the foundation of society, and that is what our education is for."
Born in Argentina in 1955, Partnoy was herself kidnapped by the government and held a concentration camp for five months, and later spent another two-and-a-half years in a jail for political prisoners. She wrote of her experiences in her memoir, The Little School.
Partnoy explained that the military dictatorship held people captive for long periods before killing them, because families of the kidnapped could be controlled if they had some hope that their loved ones might still be alive.
Last year, she returned to the place where she was held captive for the first time to testify in the "Trials for the Truth," in which her book was submitted as evidence.
Partnoy currently teaches Spanish at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and is a member of the Advisory Board of Amnesty International.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.