The construction of family memory through activist engagement: The case of relatives of the disappeared in Spain

Sélim Smaoui (Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium)
Publication Year
Europe and Central Asia
Thematic Area
Families / The Search Process
Advocacy / Enforced Disappearance / Family Needs / Memorialization / Right to Know/Truth
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Since the early 2000s, Spain has been shaken by mobilizations of “victims of Francoism,” promoting the memory of past violence. In this article, instead of apprehending such mobilizations as a sudden public display of private accounts, as is often stated, I contend that the “memory of Franco’s repression” is rather produced and constructed by the dynamics of mobilization. In order to demonstrate this, I analyze the process that led Spanish citizens to engage in defending the memory of the victims of Francoism, with a particular focus on the commitment of the relatives of the “disappeared.” While one might assume that these actors were the bearers of pre-existing family memory, they were content to disseminate in the public space on the occasion of their commitment; I argue quite the contrary: it is the experiences lived during the specific time of mobilization (social interactions, expert socializations, memorial activities) that have forged their status as relatives of the disappeared while profoundly reconfiguring their family memory.