The term testimonio is used in Latin American Cultural and Literary Studies to refer to a narration marked by the urgency to make public a situation of oppression or injustice and/or of resistance against that same condition (and therefore a narrative that accounts for the construction of collective subjects and emphasizes agency). It is also used to refer to a narration that reveals the urgency to bear witness to an event or series of events perpetrated with the aim of eliminating a community or a group (a narrative linked to documenting human rights violations and genocide). The narration, mediated or not through an editor, entails the affirmation of a speaking subject who, in turn, invokes the existence of a community or group to which she/he claims to belong. Testimonio is generally associated with the term “subalternity,” and, thus, is understood as an attempt to undo the erasure, within official narratives, of the existence of a social group and its culture, as well as of the actions implemented by that group in order to struggle against oppression. The first erasure concerns the representation of subaltern groups as invisible and disposable. The second one blurs or dismisses the violence of oppression and exploitation as the cause of different forms of struggle and inscribes subalternity as connected to criminality in the official narratives of authoritarian states, to further justify the illegal repression of apparatuses of enforced disappearance and massacre. Even though testimonial practices have existed since the sixteenth century in Latin America, the emergence of the term testimonio, and the theoretical debates that surround it, should take into account the sociopolitical and cultural transformations that accompany the revolutionary processes in the 1960s and the decades that followed, and the atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated by dictatorships.
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- Testimonio: The Witness, the Truth, and the Inaudible
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