Fabricio Tocco on Spectres and Secrets in the Paraguayan Woods

Join us for this week’s CuSPP Seminar (taking place via zoom)

Thursday 25 March, 4.30 – 6pm (see CuSPP email or contact monique.rooney@anu.edu.au for zoom link).

Spectres and Secrets in the Paraguayan Woods: Hugo Giménez’s Matar a un muerto (2019)

This paper deals with the representation of genocide and forced disappearance in Hugo Giménez’s first feature film Matar a un muerto (Killing the dead, [2019]), set in 1978, during the Paraguayan and the Argentine dictatorships. Building on arguments made about the role of dictatorial violence in language in both Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx and A Taste for the Secret and American translator and scholar Marguerite Feitlowitz’s essay A Lexicon of Terror, I offer a reading of the film, which I see as an unconventional example of a genre that is currently reaching its peak in Latin America: the political thriller. I especially focus on how the film spatializes spectres and secrets in the Paraguayan woods to portray instances of state-sponsored forced disappearance in Paraguay and Argentina. Following Judith Butler’s concepts of ‘precariousness’ and ‘precarity,’ I provide a theorization of what I call ‘precarious secrets,’ as a distinctive feature of Latin American political thrillers. Finally, I conclude by asking about the political implications of the cultural representation of secrecy and specters for Latin America today. 

Dr. Fabricio Tocco holds a PhD in Hispanic Studies from the University of British Columbia, Canada. His research deals with the intersections of literature and history, especially the way popular genres inform and are informed by literary and political theory in Latin American cultural studies. His first monograph, a revised version of his dissertation, A Poetics of Failure: Individualism and the State in Latin American Detective Fiction, will be published next year by Lexington Books. He has recently joined the ANU in January as a Lecturer in Spanish and as the Portuguese Convenor.

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