Convocatoria Panel ACLA: “Filling the Gaps? Invented Family Narratives in Post-conflict Hispanic Societies”

Marzo 29-Abril 1, 2018 – UCLA, Los Angeles, California

American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA)
March 29th-April 1st, 2018 – UCLA, Los Angeles, California

Filling the Gaps? Invented Family Narratives in Post-conflict Hispanic Societies

This panel investigates the role of invention in post-conflict family histories. It proposes to launch a transatlantic debate on family narratives in literature and films of Spain and Latin-America.

After conflicts that mark whole societies, such as the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent postwar period or the dictatorships of the Latin American Southern Cone, the generations that come after need to (re)find ways of community and sociability. The family, traditionally the smallest communal form, holds the spotlight in contemporary post-conflict narratives, either as a safe space to return to, or as a construction under pressure. The family is also the structure where the transmission of frequently traumatic experiences might, but does not always, happen. How do we position ourselves as a family in the political spectrum? As victims or perpetrators? Or is there also something in between? These questions, whose answers strongly shape the identity of the individual family members that came after, found their way in contemporary Hispanic literature and film. In most cases, however, finding answers is problematic.

In the case of Spain, family narratives about the Civil War were formed in Franco’s postwar Spain or in exile. Traumatic memories of the conflict and the fear of political persecution (Labanyi 2009) determined both environments. These conditions generated obstacles in the transmission of the family narratives to subsequent generations (Valverde 2014). In some cases, the family narrative is suspended and completely reinvented. In other cases, the following generations have to fill the gaps of a partially transmitted narrative, a “mémoire trouée (Raczymow 1986).

In comparison with Spain, in the countries of the Southern Cone –Argentina, Chile and Uruguay– memory has gradually been institutionalized (Huyssen 2003, Sarlo 2005, Ros 2012), which allows, supposedly, for more openness within families to talk about the past. Invention still is, however, an essential part of the family narratives of contemporary authors and filmmakers. Their works, frequently “autofictional”, are sometimes read alongside Hirsch’s definition of postmemory (Waldman 2007, Ramírez 2010), whose “connection to the past is […] mediated not by recall but by imaginative investment, projection, and creation” (Hirsch 2012:5).

We propose to reflect, through literature and (documentary) film from Spain and Latin America (not necessarily limited to the Southern Cone), on the following topics:

-       The role of invention in the construction of intimate and family narratives, and of a collective memory in post-conflict societies

-       The causes for considering invention as a safe space and for perpetuating invented family narratives

-       The political consequences of revealing the truth behind an invented family story

-       The paradoxical use of invention to deconstruct fiction and rewrite history

-       The choice for leaving gaps and the formal strategies authors and filmmakers use to leave silence.

Scholars at any stage of their research are invited to submit their abstracts (100-250 words) before the 21st of September 2017. Submissions for this panel should be sent via the convention’s website: For further information, contact the organizers:;

Works Cited:

Hirsch, Marianne. The generation of Postmemory: Writing and visual culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012.

Huyssen, Andreas. Present Pasts: urban palimpsests and the politics of memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.

Labanyi, Jo. “History and Hauntology, or What does one do with the Ghosts of the Past?”. Resina, J.R. (ed.). Disremembering the Dictatorship: the politics of memory in the Spanish Transtition to Democracy. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2000: 65-82.

––. “The languages of silence: historical memory, generational transmission and witnessing in contemporary Spain”. Journal of Romaces Studies 9.3 (Winter 2009): 23-35.

Mesa Gancedo, Daniel. “Diario y autoficción en la narrativa hispanoamericana contemporánea.” El yo fabulado. Nuevas aproximaciones críticas a la autoficción. Ed. Casas, Ana. Madrid/Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuert, 2014. 191-206.

Raczymow, Henri. “La mémoire trouée”. Pardès 3 (1986): 177-182.

Ramírez, Elizabeth. “Estrategias para (no) olvidar: notas sobre dos documentales chilenos de la post-dictadura.” Aisthesis 47 (2010): 45-63.

Ros, Ana. The post-dictatorship generation in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

Sarlo, Beatriz. Tiempo pasado. Cultura de la memoria y giro subjetivo. Una discusión. Buenos Aires: Siglo XXI Editores Argentina, 2005.

Valverde Gefaell, Clara. Desenterrar las palabras. Transmisión generacional del trauma de la violencia política del siglo XX en el Estado español. Barcelona: Icaria, 2014.

Waldman, Gilda. “Postmemoria: una primera aproximación ” Memorias (in)cógnitas. Contiendas en la historia. Eds. Aguiluz Ibargüen, Maya and Gilda Waldman. México: CENCH-UNAM, 2007. 387-401.