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Documenting Revolution in Latin America

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Organizer: Daniella Gitlin

Co-Organizer: Oriana Mejias Martinez

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Again and again, revolutions run up against representation trouble. Michel-Rolph Trouillot wrote that the Haitian Revolution “entered history with the peculiar characteristic of being unthinkable even as it happened.” Horacio Legrás has said of the Mexican Revolution that it “opened a hole in reality that literary and other discourses strove in vain to close for almost seventy years.” And “any attempt to represent the ‘history’” of Revolutionary Cuba, according to Ricardo Ortiz, “immediately raises the question of the relation between historical continuity and discontinuity, a question that in its most profound sense brings us to the borders of an impasse, to the no-place of aporia.” It has been argued that a truly revolutionary revolution cannot be understood in the moment, and perhaps not in hindsight either. But is it possible, as so many have tried, to document a revolution? How can we theorize various failures to represent revolutions alongside the persistent efforts to record them? What documentary forms have been used to capture the trace of revolution, and to what effect? How do such documents differ from one another? Do revolutions in Latin America and the Caribbean run into common difficulties with representation, or do the divergent characteristics of these events in terms of race, class, geopolitics, etc. make them incommensurate with one another? We would welcome meditations on colonial chronicles, diaries, letters, juridical documents, paintings, periodicals, photographs, sound recordings, film, testimonies, or any other form of documentation within the revolutions--broadly conceived--of the region.

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