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Documenting the past for a more peaceful future

Thousands of people around the world are imprisoned, tortured or executed for political reasons. Left undocumented, these actions are often met with denial, revisionism and impunity for those who commit them, threatening democracy, peaceful coexistence and human development.

Examining the case of Chile and the unprecedented documentation work undertaken by civil society organisations during the Pinochet dictatorship, an international research team has shown how the act of documentation itself is an important mode of resistance to human rights violations. Working closely with human rights advocacy organisations, Newton funded researchers plan to increase the availability of information about human rights violations and inform policy and practice in this important area in Colombia and Mexico.

Documentation and record-keeping is an essential part of seeking truth and justice. It allows affected societies to appreciate – often for the first time – the depth and scale of the trauma suffered by fellow citizens. Both for Colombia and Mexico, this new line of research, virtually unexplored until now, is a decisive contribution to human rights movements. This study will produce recommendations to enhance the registration policy and processes currently underway in Colombia and Mexico, and the results will be shared with human rights organisations to improve registry and documentation systems globally.

Long term, increased documentation will help societies confront and learn from political violence and protect fundamental human rights – a basic condition for peace, sustainable governance and sustainable human and economic development in any society. Crucially, it will support public policy and measures that help us to move towards a more peaceful future.

"Undertaking our research internationally through the Newton Fund will help us protect human rights in the Latin American region and beyond." 

Dr Oriana Bernasconi, Associate Professor, Alberto Hurtado University


Political technologies of memory: a genealogy of the devices of registration and denunciation of human rights violations under the military dictatorship in Chile (1973- 2013)

Project leads: Professor Vikki Bell, Professor of Sociology, Goldsmiths and Dr Oriana Bernasconi, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Alberto Hurtado University

Delivery partners: Arts and Humanities Research Council and the National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT)