Delving into the Ruins: The AMIA Bombing, the Struggle for Justice, and the Negotiation of Jewish Belonging in Argentina Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Cohen, Michelle Amy
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Anthropology
  • This work is an anthropological study of the political and social effects of the 1994 bombing of an important local institution in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This institution, known as the AMIA, was and continues to be a center for Jewish life in Argentina, housing a burial society, archives, and the offices of the DAIA, (Delegación de Asociaciones Israelitas Argentinas), along with many other offices and programs. Eighty-five individuals were killed in the attack, and hundreds were injured. Fifteen years later suspected perpetrators of the bombing have yet to be tried in Argentine courts. The attack, in addition to terrorizing the Jewish Argentine community and residents of Buenos Aires, raised important questions about the functioning of Argentina's democracy, human rights, and the belonging of Jewish Argentine citizens. Immediately after the bombing, state officials, commentators, and everyday citizens contributed to a discourse in which the Jewish victims were separated from Argentine or innocent victims, despite the fact that the majority of those killed, Jewish and non-Jewish, were Argentine citizens. Concordantly, the bombing was treated by certain state actors as a narrowly defined Jewish problem, rather than an attack on the nation-state. This dissertation shows historically and ethnographically how Jewish Argentine citizens and the bombing itself could be viewed in such terms, and what this reveals about politics and difference in Argentina. I illustrate how many family members of the victims, along with other social actors, have defied the view that the AMIA bombing isn't a national concern, and the idea that its intended targets--Jews--are ambiguously Argentine. I show how the grassroots social movement Memoria Activa, in particular, has worked to place the bombing squarely within the confines of the nation, arguing that in doing so they are challenging and reshaping dominant notions of Jewishness and politics in the process. Ultimately, I demonstrate that for Memoria Activa and other social actors, the bombing is less a Jewish issue than a highlighting of a politics of impunity and forgetting that many see as endemic to state and local politics.
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  • Cadena, Marisol de la
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