The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working-Class Neighbourhood


285 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8844-9
DDC 306'.0982'11





Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


In this important work, Lois DuBois of Dalhousie University has added to
the growing list of theoretically informed ethnographic titles in the
Anthropological Horizons series. Through its interdisciplinary
perspectives, this series contributes to other areas such as women’s
studies, history, sociology, and political science.

DuBois’s book is rooted in the policies and actions of the Argentine
military dictatorship (1976–83), which overthrew the inept and corrupt
Peronist regime and proceeded to change the face of the nation
politically, socially, legally, and culturally through a process
simplistically labelled as the “dirty war.” After a bloody,
state-sponsored program of violence and terror that saw the
disappearance of 30,000 citizens and a massive abuse of human rights in
the name of Western civilization, the military was finally deposed, in
part as the result of its incompetent handling of the Falklands War.

Not content with military and legal intervention in the affairs of the
public, the generals sought to impose their will in social and civic
matters. In this fine ethnographic study, based on solid fieldwork and
first-hand research, DuBois describes and examines the history of a
Buenos Aires neighbourhood, José Ingenieros, founded on a massive
squatter invasion in the early 1970s. The book is divided into nine
chapters, three of which are devoted to “Histories” that tell the
story of the housing complex takeover, its origins, and the events of
the early years (1968–76). With the military coup and state
intervention came the reorganization of the project and consequent
subduing of the politically engaged community of José Ingenieros
(1976–82), followed by the post-military reorganization (1982–92).

DuBois’s ethnographic skills are particularly evident in the second
section, Memories, which details her attempts at organizing a history
workshop. Her study as a whole is an important commentary on the
now-familiar topic of how nations deal with their troubled pasts. Useful
notes, together with a bibliography, chronology, and glossary, round out
the volume.


DuBois, Lois., “The Politics of the Past in an Argentine Working-Class Neighbourhood,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 15, 2024,