HIST 293:

Dirty Wars & Democracy

Fall 2006
Tuesday/Thursday 9:35-10:50 AM; King 337
Mr. Volk 
Office: Rice 309
Office Phone: 58522
Email: Steven.Volk@oberlin.edu
Office Hours: Mon 1:30-2:30; Tues 3:00-4:00; Wed 11:00-Noon

ACCESSING THE COURSE: Course materials can be found on the Blackboard system. This electronic bulletin board will post all the outlines for the course lectures, the syllabus, exams and paper assignments, and other materials useful for the course. You must register to get into the system, and I will provide information on how to do this and how to use the system in the first week of classes. In the meantime, check out the on-line information on accessing Blackboard]. Once you are registered, you enter via a password, and then can locate daily outlines, assignments or other useful information. It is important that everyone registers for the CourseInfo Blackboard system as it provides me with an easy way to email the class. Electronic Reserve materials are accessed via the password: hist293 (all lower case).


     During the 1960s and 1970s, military dictatorships surged over the Americas, covering, at one point, every country in South America save Colombia and Venezuela. While military rulers were not an unusual occurrence in many Latin American countries, these regimes were in no sense “typical.” Indeed, they were striking for the nature of their political aims, for the economic policies they imposed, and for the sheer brutality of their methods. These were the regimes that gave rise to the term “dirty war,” introduced “disappear” into our grammar as a transitive verb, and gave us new lexicons of terror. While one can certainly question the very notion of any war that is not “dirty” in some sense, examining these regimes forces us explore why states, all of which hold a theoretical monopoly on the sanctioned use of force, would choose to employ it massively against civil society, and when lines are crossed between a “legitimate” exercise of force and its illegitimate and illegal use.

     Many Latin American regimes of the 1960s and 1970s could fit the model of what has been called the “bureaucratic-authoritarian” dictatorship (Guatemala comes to mind), but here we will concentrate only on the “Southern Cone” countries of South America, paying particular attention to Argentina and Chile, while also examining Brazil and Uruguay.

     This course will explore the questions that arise when one contemplates these “regimes of exception”: What brought about the continent-wide wave of military dictatorships beginning in the 1960s? Was there a characteristic ideology, structure, support base, or methodology shared by these military regimes? How can we understand the harsh methods imposed by the military regimes and their civilian supporters? What leads governments to torture and murder their citizens, and what allows individuals to participate in that process? Why did these military regimes finally give way to more democratic, civilian regimes? How have the new governments in these countries chosen to address the crimes of the past as they reconstruct the vestiges of civil society? How have private citizens, NGOs, and the international community addressed the historical legacy of violent states and dictators through an attempt to build a more comprehensive international legal regime that can bring state torturers to justice? How has memory accommodated this period of repression? What is the relationship between our current historical moment, marked by what has been called a "war on terror," and these earlier terrorist moments?

     Classes will be held as lecture-discussions, with student participation actively encouraged. The course requires a significant amount of reading, and students are expected to keep up with the readings so as to be able to participate intelligently and energetically in class.

     As this period of Latin American history produced a tremendous artistic and literary outpouring, we will approach it through written texts (primary and secondary sources), film, drama, music, and art. I also strongly encourage you to follow breaking news from Latin America. The issue of the “dirty wars” is not old news in these countries or in the United States. The arrest of the Chilean dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, in London in 1998 and his extradition to Chile the following year has re-energized the attempt to bring him, his lieutenants, and U.S. officials to trial for crimes committed in the 1970s. This is an issue that has involved thousands, including myself. [See “Judgment Day in Chile,” NACLA Report on the Americas (July-August 2002)] The release of thousands of documents by the US State Department (and a lesser number by the CIA and other intelligence agencies), beginning in 1999, has provided unprecedented access to researchers interested in the US role in Chile and other Latin American countries during the time of the dictators. And, over the past few years, national courts in Argentina, Chile and elsewhere continue to process cases against those most responsible for the atrocities in those countries. The fact that these issues, far from disappearing, have become a major motivating force behind the creation of the International Criminal Court gives us a clue as to the ultimate significance of the “dirty war” period to the history of these countries and the memories which remain.

Pinochet Wanted

Class Requirements and Grading Policy

(1) As mentioned above, students are expected to keep up with the reading and to come to class prepared.

(2) You are required to complete four assignments over the course of the semester.

(a) Due October 3 at the beginning of class: A 4-5 page paper on the concept of the "exceptional state" -- based on assigned readings and some additional research, you will have to provide a general argument for why ostensibly democratic, civilian states adopt authoritarian or dictatorial forms (15% of grade);

(b) Due October 31 at the beginning of class: A 4-5 page paper discussing the "exceptional state" in power. Select one of the four "exceptional states" in the Southern Cone of Latin America (Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina) and analyze the way in which the military regime structured its power once it had deposed the previous government. Your thesis should be constructed around what you consider to be the most important factor/s in the way the military structured their regimes.(20% of grade);

(c) Due November 28 at the beginning of class: The project can be on any one of the following three themes: (1) Terror, violence, and the exceptional regime: While different states allow different amount of legally sanctioned violence within their constitutional structures (including the use of capital punishment), constitutional states largely eschew the use of torture and non-judicially sanctioned capital punishment. Your projects should explore the theme of violence and the exceptional regime, including an exploration of the hazy area between legally sanctioned violence and extra-legal violence. (2) The internationalization of the "dirty wars" regimes. This project can explore relations between two or more Southern Cone dictatorships (e.g. Chile and Argentina), Operación Condor, or the relationship between the United States and any particular Southern Cone dictatorship. (3) Contesting the dictatorships: This project can focus on any single or comparative examination of the ways in which the dictatorships of the Southern Cone were challenged, resisted, and (ultimately) removed.

You may approach this project as a group project which will involve 3-4 people per group, or as an individual project. The format of the project is open — it can be a written paper, a performance, a video, or any other media form. If you choose to write a paper, it should be 5-7 pages in length (30% of grade);

(d) Due December 14 at 4:30 PM. A 7-10 page paper discussing any aspect of the post-dictatorial regimes: history and memory, the reconstitution of civil society in any country studied or as a general analysis of the Southern Cone, the international legal ramifications of events in the Southern Cone, the relationship between "truth and reconciliation" commissions in the Southern Cone countries and other parts of the world (e.g. South Africa), etc. This work should be based partially on course readings and partially on additional research. Extensions without penalty will be granted (IF REQUESTED) until December 21 at 2:00 PM. (the time scheduled by the Registrar's Office for a final exam in the course although there is no final exam). After that point, there will be NO extensions allowed unless you request an official incomplete in the course. (35% of grade).

(3) These projects are due on the day and at the time assigned in the syllabus. Assignments turned in late without prior authorization will be marked down one grade-step for each day that it is late. For example, a paper that is due on October 8 but turned in on October 9 will be marked down one grade-step (e.g., from a B+ to a B).

(4) Please note that you must use computers responsibly. Computers, particularly those on a network, are always crashing. You must be responsible for saving to disk frequently so that when the computer crashes, you will have only lost the last paragraph. You must also save copies of your papers (or your computer files) until the end of the course in case there is any problem verifying that you did turn in your work.

     Your final grade will be determined by the four assignments as noted above. I also reserve the right to factor in excessive absence from classes. Since this course is not only about the projects you produce but also about what happens weekly in class, you cannot expect a reasonable grade if you do not come to class even if your projects are good.

     Oberlin College is on the Honor Code. Information on what this means (e.g. cheating, plagiarism, fabrication) and your responsibilities as a student can be found at: Honor Code.

PLEASE NOTE: If you are having problems with the readings, the lectures, or just want to discuss further any aspect of the course (from content to class dynamics), I strongly encourage you to see me during office hours (Monday 1:30-2:30 PM.; Tuesday 3:00-4:00 PM; Wednesday 11:00 AM-Noon) or to make an appointment. Please don’t wait until late in the semester to express these concerns.

SOURCES ON LATIN AMERICA: I have compiled a great many Internet sources and resources on Latin America at Sources and Resources on Latin America. This resource includes a variety of materials from the history of Latin America to organizations and publications of interest to activists working on Latin American issues.

Moneda Burning

"La Moneda" (Chile's Presidential Palace) burns after bombed by Air Force, September 11, 1973

Books Required for Purchase:

John Dinges, The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents (New York and London: New Press), 2004.

Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden, reprint ed. (New York: Penguin USA), 1994.

Marguerite Feitlowitz, A Lexicon of Terror. Argentina and the Legacies of Torture (New York: Oxford), 1999

Susana Kaiser, Postmemories of Terror (New York: Palgrame Macmillan), 2005.

Alicia Partnoy, The Little School: Tales of Disappearance & Survival in Argentina, 2nd ed (Cleis Press), 1998.

Cathy Lisa Schneider, Shantytown Protest in Pinochet's Chile (Philadelphia: Temple University Press), 1995.

Jacobo Timerman, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, new ed. Ilan Stavans introduction (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), 2002.



Sept. 5, 7: Introduction: When Democracies Go Bad

Jacobo Timerman, Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number, trans. Toby Talbot (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), 2002 [1981].

Sept. 12, 14: Three Roads to Crisis: (1) Brazil: The State, the Military, and Religion

Brazilian MilitaryJoão Quartim, "Historical Introduciton 1930-64: The Legacy of Vargas," in Dictatorship and Armed Struggle in Brazil (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1971), pp. 17-55. [ERes and Regular Reserve]

Readings from Robert M. Levine and John J. Crocitti, eds., The Brazil Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999):


"Ordinary People: Five Lives Affected by Vargas-Era Reforms," pp. 206-221. [ERes and Regular Reserve]


Carlos Marighella, "Minimanual of the Urban Guerrilla" (following excerpts):

- A Definition of the Urban Guerrilla
- Personal Qualities of the Urban Guerrilla
- How the Urban Guerrilla Lives
- Technical Preparation of the Urban Guerrilla
- Information
- Objectives of the Guerrilla's Actions
- Strikes and Work Interruptions
- Executions
- Terrorism
- Armed Propaganda
- How to Carry Out the Action
- Popular Support

Manuel A. Vásquez, The Brazilian Popular Church and the Crisis of Modernity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Chapter 1 ("The Popular Church's Utopian Project: Ideological and Theological Bases") and 2 ("The Consolidation of the Igreja Popular and its Impact on Brazilian Society"), pp. 19-54. [ERes and Regular Reserve]

Sept. 19, 21: Three Roads to Crisis: (2) Argentina: Peronism, the Military, and the Guerrillas

Readings from Gabriela Nouzeilles and Graciela Montaldo, eds., The Argentina Reader: History, Culture, Politics (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002):

Daniel James, "Perón and the People," pp. 273-295. [ERes and Regular Reserve]
Tomás Eloy Martinez, "Saint Evita," pp. 296-303. [ERes and Regular Reserve]
Agustín Tosco, "The Cordobaza," pp. 364-371.
[ERes and Regular Reserve]
Guillermo O'Donnell, "Modernization and Military Coups," pp. 399-420. [ERes and Regular Reserve]

Donald C. Hodges, "The Revolutionary War," in Argentina's "Dirty War": An Intellectual Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991), pp. 87-123. [ERes and Regular Reserve]

Sept. 26, 28: Three Roads to Crisis: (3) Chile: The State and the Challenge of the Left

Muerte al LatifundioCathy Lisa Schneider, Shantytown Protest in Pinochet's Chile (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1995), Preface, Chapters 1, 2.


Oct. 3: First Assignment Due (at the start of class)


Oct. 3, 5: The Authoritarian State: Law & Violence in a State of Fear

Marguerite Feitlowitz, A Lexicon of Terror. Argentina and the Legacies of Torture (New York: Oxford, 1999), Introduction, Chs. 1, 2, pp. 3-88.

Schneider, Shantytown Protest, Ch. 3, pp. 73-107.



Oct. 10, 12: Torture and the State

Alicia Partnoy, The Little School: Tales of Disappearance & Survival in Argentina, 2nd ed.(Cleis Press), 1998.

Charles Krauthammer, "The Truth about Torture: It's Time to be Honest about Doing Terrible Things," The Weekly Standard Vol. 11, no. 12 (December 5, 2005). COURSE DOCUMENTS.

Susan Sontag, "Regarding the Torture of Others: Notes on what has been done - and why - to prisoners, by Americans," New York Times Magazine (May 22, 2004), pp. 25-29, 42. [COURSE DOCUMENTS]

(Picture drawn by Miguel Lawner of the "Parilla" (literally barbeque) at Dawson's Island, Chile, where he was a prisoner)

Oct. 17, 19: Fall Break

Oct. 24, 26: The Authoritarian State at its Zenith: Operación Condor and the Internationalization of Terror

Kissinger-PinochetJohn Dinges, The Condor Years: How Pinochet and His Allies Brought Terrorism to Three Continents (New York and London: New Press), 2004.


Oct. 31: Second Assignment Due (at the start of class)


Henry Kissinger greets General Augusto Pinochet of Chile

Oct. 31, Nov. 2: The Road Out: Brazil and Argentina

Feitlowitz, A Lexicon of Terror, Ch. 3 to end (pp. 89-255)

Nov. 7, 9: The Road Out: Chile

Schneider, Shantytown Protest, Chs. 4, 5,6 (pp. 109-213).

Nov. 14, 16: Towards the Reconstruction of Civil Society: Memory

Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden, reprint ed. (New York: Penguin USA), 1994.

Donde Estan?

Nov. 21: Towards the Reconstruction of Civil Society: Postmemory

Susana Kaiser, Postmemories of Terror (New York: Palgrame Macmillan), 2005.


Nov. 28: Third Assignment Due (at the start of class)

Nov. 28, 30: Justice and Peace: Argentina

Priscilla B. Hayner, Unspeakable Truths : Confronting State Terror and Atrocity (New York and London: Routledge, 2002): Introduction, Chs. 2,3,6,7,8 (pp. 1-31, 72-132). [ERes and Regular Reserve]

Dec. 5, 7: Justice Delayed, Justice Denied, Justice Internationalized: Chile and Pinochet

Pinochet Jail

From Madeleine Davis, ed., The Pinochet Case: Origins, Progress, and Implications (London: Institute of Latin American Studies), 2003:[All on ERes and Regular Reserve]

* Madeleine Davis, "Introduction, Law and Politics in the Pinochet Case," pp. 1-24.

* Juan E. Garcés, "Kissinger and Pinochet Facing Universal Jurisdiction," pp. 25-

*Francisco Bravo López, "The Pinochet Case in the Chilean Courts," pp. 107-124.

* Alexandra Barahona de Brito, "The Pinochet Case and the Changing Boundaries
of Democracy," pp. 212-230.

* Antonio Remiro Brotóns, "International Law After the Pinochet Case," pp. 231-

Dec. 9, 14: The Lessons of Authoritarianism

No assigned reading

Dec. 14: Final Project due at the start of class. NOTE: You may request an extension without penalty until December 21 at 2:00 PM. After that time, you will not be granted an extension without taking an official "incomplete" in the course.